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Author of "Untrodden Peaks and Unfrequented Valleys," "Lord Bracken- 
bury," "Barbara's History," etc. 

' It flows through old hush'd Egypt and its sands, 
Like some grave, mighty thought, threading a dream." 

—Leigh Hunt. 



nm v * 






" Un voyage en Egypte, c'est une partie d'anes et une promenade en 
bateau entrenielees de mines. " — Ampere. 

Ampere has put Egypt in aii epigram. " A donkey ride 
and a boating trip interspersed with ruins" does, in fact, 
sum np in a single line the whole experience of the Nile 
traveler. Apropos of these three things — the donkeys, 
the boat, and the ruins — it may be said that a good English 
saddle and a comfortable dahabeeyah add very considerably 
to the pleasure of the journey; and that the more one 
knows* about the past history of the country, the more one 
enjoys the ruins. 

Of the comparative merits of wooden boats, iron boats, 
and steamers, I am not qualified to speak. We, however, 
saw one iron dahabeeyah aground upon a sand-bank, where, 
as we afterward learned, it remained for three weeks. We 
also saw the wrecks of three steamers between Cairo and 
the first cataract. It certainly seemed to us that the old- 
fashioned wooden dahabeeyah — flat-bottomed, drawing 
little water, light in hand, and easily poled off when stuck 
— was the one vessel best constructed for the navigation of 
the Nile. Other considerations, as time and cost, are, of 
course, involved in this question. The choice between 
dahabeeyah and steamer is like the choice between 
trailing with post-horses and traveling by rail. The one 

-as* 1 

/ ±/7o 


is expensive, leisurely, delightful; the other is cheap, swift, 
and comparatively comfortless. Those who are content to 
snatch but a glimpse of the Nile will doubtless prefer the 
steamer. I may add that the whole cost of the Phila? — 
food, dragoman's wages, boat-hire, cataract, everything 
included, except wine — was about £10 per day. 

With regard to temperature, we found it cool — even 
cold, sometimes — in December and January; mild in Feb- 
ruary; very warm in March and April. The climate of 
Nubia is simply perfect. It never rains; and once past 
the limit of the tropic there is no morning or evening chill 
upon the air. Yet even in Nubia, and especially along the 
forty miles which divide Abou Simbel from Wady Halfeh, 
it is cold when the wind blows strongly from the north.* 

Touching the title of this book, it may be objected that 
the distance from the port of Alexandria to the second 
cataract falls short of a thousand miles. It is, in fact, 
calculated at nine hundred and sixty four and a half miles. 
But from the Eock of Abusir, five miles above Wady Hal- 
feh, the traveler looks over an extent of country far exceed- 
ing the thirty or thirty-five miles necessary to make up the 
full tale of a thousand. We distinctly saw from this point 
the summits of mountains which lie about one hundred 
and forty-five miles to the southward of Wady Halfeh, 
and which look down upon the third cataract. 

Perhaps I ought to say something in answer to the 
repeated inquiries of those who looked for the publication 
of this volume a year ago. I can, however, only reply that 
the writer, instead of giving one year, has given two years to 
the work. To write rapidly about Egypt is impossible. The 

* For the benefit of any who desire more exact information, I may 
add that a table of average temperatures, carefully registered day by 
day and week by week, is to be found at the end of Mr. H. Villiers 
Stuart's " Nile Gleanings." [Note to second edition.] 


subject grows with the book, and with the knowledge one 
acquires by the way. It is, moreover, a subject beset with 
such obstacles as must impede even the swiftest pen; and 
to that swiftest pen I lay no claim. Moreover, the writer 
who seeks to be accurate, has frequently to go for his facts, 
if not actually to original sources (which would be the 
texts themselves), at all events to translations and com- 
mentaries locked up in costly folios, or dispersed far and 
wide among the pages of scientific journals and the trans- 
actions of learned societies. A date, a name, a passing 
reference, may cost hours of seeking. 

More pleasant is it to remember labor lightened than to 
consider time spent; and I have yet to thank the friends 
who have spared no pains to help this book on its way. 
To S. Birch, Esq., LL.D., etc., so justly styled "the 
parent in this country of a sound school of Egyptian 
philology/' who, besides translating the hieratic and hier- 
oglyphic inscriptions contained in chapter eighteen, has 
also, with infinite kindness, seen the whole of that chapter 
through the press; to Reginald Stuart Poole, Esq.; to 
Professor R. Owen, C. B., etc.; to Sir G. W. Cox, I desire 
to offer my hearty and grateful acknowledgments. It is 
surely not least among the glories of learning that those 
who adorn it most and work hardest should ever be read- 
iest to share the stores of their knowledge, 

Of the fascination of Egyptian travel, of the charm of 
the Nile, of the unexpected and surpassing beauty of the 
desert, of the ruins which are the wonder of the world, I 
have said enough elsewhere. I must, however, add that 
I brought home with me an impression that things and 
people are much less changed in Egypt than we of the 
present day are wont to suppose. I believe that the 
physique and life of the modern fellah is almost identical 
with the physique and life of that ancient Egyptian laborer 


whom we know so well in the wall paintings of the tombs. 
Square in the shoulders, slight but strong in the limbs, 
full-lipped, brown-skinned, we see him wearing the same 
loin-cloth, plying the same shaduf, plowing with the same 
plow, preparing the same food in the same way, and eat- 
ing it with his fingers from the same bowl, as did his fore 
fathers of six thousand years ago. 

The household life and social ways of even the provincial 
gentry are little changed. Water is poured on one's hands 
before going to dinner from just such a ewer and into just 
such a basin as we see pictured in the festival scenes at 
Thebes. Though the lotus-blossom is missing, a bouquet 
is still given to each guest when he takes his place at table. 
The head of the sheep killed for the banquet is still given 
to the poor. Those who are helped to meat or drink touch 
the head and breast in acknowledgment, as of old. The 
musicians still sit at the lower end of the hall, the singers 
yet clap their hands in time to their own voices; the danc- 
ing-girls still dance and the buffoon in his high cap still per- 
forms his uncouth antics, for the entertainment of the 
guests. Water is brought to table in jars of the same shape 
manufactured at the same town, as in the days of Cheops 
and Chephren; and the mouths of the bottles are filled in 
precisely the same way with fresh leaves and flowers. The 
cucumber stuffed with minced-meat was a favorite dish in 
those times of old; and I can testify to its excellence in 
1874. Little boys in Nubia yet wear the side-lock that 
graced the head of Rameses in his youth; and little girls 
may be seen in a garment closely resembling the girdle 
worn by young princesses of the time of Thothmes I. A 
sheik still walks with a long staff; a Nubian belle still 
plaits her tresses in scores of little tails; and the pleasure- 
boat of the modern governor or mudir, as well as the daha- 
beeyah hired by the European traveler, reproduces in all 


essential features the painted galleys represented in the 
tombs of the kings. 

In these and in a hundred other instances, all of which 
came under my personal observation and have their place 
in the following pages, it seemed to me that any obscurity 
which yet hangs over the problem of life and thought in 
ancient Egypt originates most probably with ourselves. 
Our own habits of life and thought are so complex that 
they shut us off from the simplicity of that early world. 
So it was with the problem of hieroglyphic writing. The 
thing was so obvious that no one could find it out. As long 
as the world persisted in believing that every hieroglyph 
was an abstruse symbol, and every hieroglyphic inscription 
a profound philosophical rebus, the mystery of Egyptian 
literature remained insoluble. Then at last came Cham- 
pollion's famous letter to Dacier, showing that the hiero- 
glyphic signs were mainly alphabetic and syllabic, and that 
the language they spelled was only Coptic, after all. 

li<- there were not thousands who still conceive that the 
sun and moon were created and' are kept going for no 
other purpose than to lighten the darkness of our little 
planet; if only the other day a grave gentleman had not 
written a perfectly serious essay to show that the world is a 
flat plain, one would scarcely believe that there could 
still be people who doubt that ancient Egyptian is now read 
and translated as fluently as ancient Greek. Yet an English- 
man whom I met in Egypt — an Englishman who had long 
been resident in Cairo, and who was well acquainted with the 
great Egyptologists who are attached to the service of the 
khedive — assured me of his profound disbelief in the dis- 
covery of Champollion. "In my opinion," said he, "not 
one of these gentlemen can read a line of hieroglyphics." 
^As I then knew nothing of the Egyptian I could say 
nothing to controvert this speech. Since that time, how- 

v iii PREFACE. 

ever, and while writing this book, I have been led on step 
by step to the study of hieroglyphic writing ; and I now 
know that Egyptian c;m be read, for the simple reason 
that I find myself able to read an Egyptian sentence. 

My testimony may not be of much value ; but I give it 
for the little that it is worth. 

The study of Egyptian literature has advanced of late 
years with rapid strides. Papyri are found less frequently 
than they were some thirty or forty years ago; but the 
translation of those contained in the museums of Europe 
goes on now more diligently than at any former time. 
Religious books, variants of the ritual, moral essays, 
maxims, private letters, hymns, epic poems, historical 
chronicles, accounts, deeds of sale, medical, magical and 
astronomical treatises, geographical records, travels and 
even romances and tales, are brought to light, photo- 
graphed, fac-similed in chromo-lithography, printed in 
hieroglyphic type and translated in forms suited both to 
the learned and to the general reader. 

Not all this literature is written, however, on papyrus. 
The greater proportion of it is carved in stone. Some is 
painted on wood, written on linen, leather, potsherds and 
other substances. So the old mystery of Egypt, which 
was her literature, has vanished. The key to the hiero- 
glyphs is the master-key that opens every door. Each 
year that now passes over our heads sees some old problem 
solved. Each day brings some long-buried truth to light. 
Some thirteen years ago,* a distinguished American 
artist painted a very beautiful picture called " The Secret 
of the Sphinx." In its widest sense the secret of the sphinx 
would mean, I suppose, the whole uninterpreted and un- 

* These dates, it is to be reniemberd, refer to the year 1877, when 
the first edition of this book was published. [Note to second 



discovered past of Egypt. In its narrower sense, the 
secret of the sphinx was, till quite lately, the hidden sig- 
nificance of the human-headed lion which is one of the 
typical subjects of Egyptian art. 

Thirteen years is a short time to look back upon ; yet 
great things have been done in Egypt and in Egyptology, 
since then. Edfu, with its extraordinary wealth of inscrip- 
tions, has been laid bare. The whole contents of the 
Boulak Museum have been recovered from the darkness of 
the tombs. The very mystery of the sphinx has been dis- 
closed ; and even within the last eighteen months, M. 
Chabas announces that he has discovered the date of the 
pyramid of Mycerinus; so for the first time establishing 
the chronology of ancient Egypt upon an ascertained 
foundation. Thus the work goes on ; students in their 
libraries, excavators under Egyptian skies, toiling along 
different paths toward a common goal. The picture 
means more to-day than it meant thirteen years ago — 
means more, even, than the artist intended. The sphinx 
has no secret now, save for the ignorant. 

In the picture Ave see a brown, half-naked, toil-worn 
fellah laying his ear to the stone lips of a colossal sphinx, 
buried to the neck in sand. Some instinct of the old 
Egyptian blood tells him that the creature is godlike. He 
is conscious of a great mystery lying far back in the past. 
He has, perhaps, a dim, confused notion that the Big 
Head knows it all, whatever it may be. He has never 
heard of the morning-song of Memnon; but he fancies, 
somehow, that those closed lips might speak if questioned. 
Fellah and sphinx are alone together in the desert. It is 
night and the stars are shining. Has he chosen the right 
hour? What doees he seek to know? AVhat does he hope 
to hew ? 

Mr. Vedder has permitted me to enrich this book with 


an engraving from his picture. It tells its own tale; or 
rather it tells as much of its own tale as the artist chooses. 

Each must interpret for himself 
The secret of the sphinx. 


Westbury-on-Trym, Gloucestershire, December, 1877. 



First published in 1877, this book has been out of print 
for several years. I have, therefore, very gladly revised it 
for a new and cheaper edition. In so revising it, I have 
corrected some of the historical notes by the light of later 
discoveries; but I have left the narrative untouched. Of 
tJie political changes which have come over the laud of 
Egypt since that narrative was written, I have taken no 
note ; and because I in no sense offer myself as a guide 
to others, I say nothing of the altered conditions under 
which most Nile travelers now perform the trip. All 
these things will be more satisfactorily, and more practi- 
cally, learned from the pages of Baedeker and Murray. 


Westbuky-on-Trtm, October, 1888. 





Arrival at Cairo — Shepheard's Hotel — The Moskee — The Khan 
Khaleel — The Bazaars — Dahabeeyahs — Ghizeh — The Pyra- 
mids 1 



The Mosque of Sultan Hassan — Moslems at Prayer — Mosque of 
Mehemet Ali — View from the Platform — Departure of the 
Caravan for Mecca — The Bab en-Nasr — The Procession — 
The Mahinal — Howling Dervishes — The Mosque of Amr — 
The Sliubra Road 15 



Departure for the Nile Voyage— Farewell to Cairo — Turra — 
The Phil* and crew — The Dahabeeyah and the Nile Sailor 
— Native Music — Bedreshayn 32 



The Palms of Memphis— Three Groups of Pyramids— The M. 
B.'s and Their Groom — Relic-hunting — The Pyramid of 
Ouenephes — The Serapeum — A Royal Raid— The Tomb of 
Ti — The Fallen Colossus — Memphis 43 



The Rule of the Nile— The Shadiif— Beni Suef— Thieves by 
Night — The Chief of the Guards — A Sand-storm — " Holy 

x i v CONTENTS. 


Sheik Cotton "—The Convent of the Pulley— A Copt— The 
Shadow of the World — Minieh — A Native Market — Prices 
of Provisions — The Dom Palm — Fortune-telling — Oph- 
thalmia 65 



Christmas Day — The Party Completed — Christmas Dinner on 
the Nile — A Fantasia — Noah's Ark — Birds of Egypt — 
Gebel Abuf ayda — Unknown Stelae — Imprisoned — The 
Scarab-beetle — Manfalut — Siiit — Red and Black Pottery — 
Ancient Tombs — View Over the Plain — Biblical Legend. . 83 



An "Experienced Surgeon" — Passing Scenery — Girgeh — Sheik 
Selim — Kasr es Syad — Forced Labor — Temple of Den- 
derah — Cleopatra — Benighted 99 



Luxor — Donkey-boys — Topography of Ancient Thebes — Pylons 
of Luxor — Poem of Pentaur — The Solitary Obelisk — In- 
terior of the Temple of Luxor — Polite Postmaster — Ride 
to Karnak — Great Temple of Karnak — The Hypostyle 
Hall— A World of Ruins 121 



A Storm on the Nile — Erment — A Gentlemanly Bey — Esneh — 
A Buried Temple — A Long Day's Sketching — Salame the 
Chivalrous — Remarkable Coin — Antichi — The Fellah — The 
Pylons of Edf u — An Exciting Race — The Philae Wins by a 
Length 140 



Assuan — Strange Wares for Sale — Madame Nubia — Castor Oil 
The Black Governor — An Enormous Blunder— Tannhauser 
in Egypt — Elephantine — Inscribed Potsherds — Bazaar of 
Assuan — The Camel — A Ride in the Desert — The Obelisk 
of the Quarry — A Death iu the Town 157 





Scenery of the Cataract — The Sheik of the Cataract — Vexa- 
tious Delays — The Painter's Vocabulary — Mahatta — An 
cient Bed of the Nile — Abyssinian Caravan 176 



Pharaoh's "Bed— The Temples — Champollion's Discovery — The 
Painted Columns — Coptic Phike — Phike and Desaix — 
Chamber of Osiris — Inscribed Rock — View from the Roof 
of the Temple 188 



Nubian Scenery — A Sand-slope — Missing Yusef — Trading by 
Ithe Way — Panoramic Views — Volcanic Cones — Dakkeh — 
Korosko — Letters from Home 211 



El-Id el-Kebir — Stalking Wild Ducks — Temple of Amada — 
Fine Art of the Thothmes — Derr — A Native Funeral — 
Temple of Derr — The "Fair" Families — The Sakkieh — 
Arrival at Abou Simbel by Moonlight 220 



Youth of Rameses the Great — Treaty with the Kheta — His 
Wives — His Great Works — The Captivity — Pithom and 
Rameses — Kauiser and Keniamon — The Birth of Moses — 
Tomb of Osymandias — Character of Rameses the Great. . . 230 



The Colossi — Portraits of Rameses the Great — The Great Sand- 
drift — ^he Smaller Temples — " Rameses and Nefertari" — 
The Great Temple — A Monster Tableau — Alone in the 
Great Temple — Trail of a Crocodile — Cleaning the Colossus 
—The Sufferings of the Sketcher 258 





Volcanic Mountains— Kalat Adda— Gebel est-Shems— The First 
Crocodile — Dull Scenery — Wady Halfeli— The Rock of 
Abusir — The Second Cataract — The Great View — Croco- 
dile-slaying — Excavating a Tumulus — Comforts of Home 
on the Nile 283 



Society at Abou Simbel — The Painter Discovers a Rock-cut 
Chamber — Sunday Employment — Re-enforcement of Na- 
tives — Excavation — The Sheik— Discovery of Human Re- 
mains — Discovery of Pylon and Staircase — Decorations of 
Painted Chamber — Inscriptions 295 



Temples ad infinitum — Tosko — Crocodiles — Derr and Amada 
Again — Wady Sabooah — Haughty Beauty — A Nameless 
City — A River of Sand — Undiscovered Temple — Mahar- 
rakeh — Dakkeh — Fortress of Kobban — Gerf Hossayn — 
Dendoor — Bayt-et-Welly — The Karnak of Nubia — Silco 
of the Ethiopians — Tafah — Dabod — Baby-shooting — A Di- 
lemma — Justice in Egypt — The Last of Philse 324 



Shooting the Cataract — Kom Ombo — Quarries of Silsilis — Edfu 
the Most Perfect of Egyptian Temples — View from the 
Pylons — Sand Columns 353 



Luxor Again — Imitation "Anteekahs" — Digging for Mummies — 
Tombs of Thebes — The Ramesseum — The Granite Colossus 
— Medinet Habu — The Pavilion of Rameses III — The 
Great Chronicle — An Arab Storv-teller — Gournah — Bab el 
Moluk— The Shadowless Valley of Death— The Tombs of 
the Kings — Stolen Goods — The French House — An Arab 
Dinner and Fantasia — The Coptic Church at Luxor — A 
Coptic Service — A Coptic Bishop. , 370 




Last Weeks on the Nile — Spring in Egypt — Ninety-nine in the 
Shade — Samata — Unbroken Donkeys — The Plain of Aby- 
dus — Harvest-time — A Biblical Idyll — Arabatthe Buried — 
Mena — Origin of the Egyptian People — Temple of Seti — 
New Tablet of Abydus — Abydus and Teni — Kom-es-Sul- 
tan — Visit to a Native Aga — The Hareem — Condition of 
Women in Egypt — Back at Cairo — "In the Name of the 
Prophet, Cakes!" — The M61id-en-Nebee — A Human Cause- 
way — The Boulak Museum — Prince Ra-hotep and Princess 
Nefer-t — Early Drive to Ghizeh — Ascent of the Great 
Pyramid — The Sphinx — The View from the Top — The 
End 421 


I. A.*McCallurn, Esq., to the Editor of The Times 447 

II. The Egyption Pantheon 447 

III. The Religious Belief of the Egyptians 450 

IV. Egyptian Chronology 452 

V. Contemporary Chronology of Egypt, Mesopotamia and 

Babylon 454 


The Secret of tlie Sphinx. After a Painting by Elihu Ved- 

der, Esq x 

Head of Ti 57 

The Shaduf 69 

Cleopatra * Ill 

Shrines of Osiris, 1, 2 and 3 205-206 

Resurrection of Osiris 207 

Cartouches of Rameses the Great 237 

Ranieses the Great (Bay t -el- Welly) . 260 

Rameses the Great (Abydus) 260 

Ranieses the Great (Abou Simbel) 260 

Profile of Rameses II (from the Southernmost Colossus; Abou 

Simbel) 261 

Ground-plan 307 

Pattern of Cornice 308 

Standard of Horus Aroeris 309 

Rameses II of Speos 311 

Temple of Amada (Wall Inscription) 313 

Heraldic Inscription (North Wall of Speos) 317 

Goddess Ta-ur-t (Silsilis) 359 

Goddess Ta-ur-t (Phila?) 359 

Vases and Goblets (Medinet Habu) 385 

Prince Ra-Hotep and Princess Nefer-t 439 




It is the traveler's lot to dine at many table-d'hotes in 
the course of many wanderings; but it seldom befalls him to 
make one of a more miscellaneous gathering than that 
which overfills the great dining-room at Shepheard's 
Hotel in Cairo during the beginning and height of the 
regular Egyptian season. Here assemble daily some two 
to three hundred persons of all ranks, nationalities, and 
pursuits; half of whom are Anglo-Indians homeward or 
outward bound, European residents, or visitors established 
in Cairo for the winter. The other half, it may be taken 
for granted, are going up the Nile. So composite and 
incongruous is this body of Nile-goers, young and old, 
well-dressed and ill-dressed, learned and unlearned, that 
the new-comer's first impulse is to inquire from what 
motives so many persons of dissimilar tastes and training 
can be led to embark upon an expedition which is, to say 
the least of it, very tedious, very costly, and of an alto- 
gether exceptional interest. 

His curiosity, however, is soon gratified. Before two 
days are over, he knows everybody's name and everybody's 
business ; distinguishes at first sight between a Cook's 
tourist and an independent traveler; and has discovered 
that nine-tenths of those whom he is likely to meet up the 
river are English or American. The rest will be mostly 
German, with a sprinkling of Belgian and French. So far 
en bloc; but the details are more heterogeneous still. Here 
are invalids in search of health ; artists in search of 
subjects; sportsmen keen upon crocodiles; statesmen out 
for a holiday : special correspondents alert for gossip ; 
collectors on the scent of papyri and mummies; men of 


science with only scientific ends in view; and the usual 
surplus of idlers who travel for the mere love of travel 
or the satisfaction of a purposeless curiosity. 

Now in a place like Shepheard's, where every fresh 
arrival has the honor of contributing, for at least a few 
minutes, to the general entertainment, the first appearance 
of L and the writer, tired, dusty, and considerably sun- 
burned, may well have given rise to some of the comments 
in usual circulation at those crowded tables. People asked 
each other, most likely, where these two wandering 
Englishwomen had come from; why they had not dressed 
for dinner; what brought them to Egypt; and if they also 
were going up the Nile — to which questions it would have 
been easy to give satisfactory answers. 

"We came from Alexandria, having had a rough passage 
from Brindisi, followed by forty-eight hours of quarantine. 
"We had not dressed for dinner because, having driven on 
from the station in advance of dragoman and luggage, we 
were but just in time to take seats with the rest. We 
intended, of course, to go up the Nile; and had any one 
ventured to inquire in so many words what brought us to 
Egypt, we should have replied: " Stress of weather." 

For in simple truth we had drifted hither by accident, 
with no excuse of health, or business, or any serious object 
whatever; and had just taken refuge in Egypt as one 
might turn aside into the Burlington Arcade or the 
Passage des Panoramas — to get out of the rain. 

And with good reason. Having left home early in Sep- 
tember for a few weeks' sketching in central France, we 
had been pursued by the wettest of wet weather. "Washed 
out of the hill country, we fared no better in the plains. 
At Xismes it poured for a month without stopping. 
Debating at last whether it were better to take our wet 
umbrellas back at once to England, or push on farther 
still in search of sunshine, the talk fell upon Algiers — 
Malta — Cairo; and Cairo carried it. Never was distant 
expedition entered upon with less premeditation! The 
thing was no sooner decided than we were gone. Nice, 
Genoa, Bologna, Ancona flitted by, as in a dream ; and 
Bedreddin Hassan when he awoke at the gates of Damascus 
was scarcely more surprised than the writer of these pages 
when she found herself on board of the Simla and steam- 
ing out of the port of Brindisi. 


Here, then, without definite plans, outfit, or any kind of 
oriental experience, behold us arrived in Cairo on the 
29th of November, 1873, literally, and most prosaically, in 
search of fine weather. 

But what had memory to do with rains on land, or 
storms at sea, or the impatient hours of quarantine, or 
anything dismal or disagreeable, when one awoke at sun- 
rise to see those gray-green palms outside the window 
solemnly bowing their plumed heads toward each other, 
against a rose-colored dawn? It was dark last night, and 
I had no idea that my room overlooked an enchanted gar- 
den, far-reaching and solitary, peopled with stately giants 
beneath whose tufted crowns hung rich clusters of maroon 
and amber dates. It was a still, warm morning. Grave 
gray and black crows flew heavily from tree to tree, or 
perched, cawing meditatively, upon the topmost branches. 
Yonder, between the pillared stems, rose the minaret of a 
very distant mosque ; and here, where the garden was 
bounded by a high wall and a windowless house, I saw a 
veiled lady walking on the terraced roof in the midst of a 
cloud of pigeons. Nothing could be more simple than the 
scene and its accessories; nothing, at the same time, more 
eastern, strange, and unreal. 

But in order thoroughly to enjoy an overwhelming, 
ineffaceable first impression of oriental out-of-door life 
one should begin in Cairo with a day in the native bazaars; 
neither buying, nor sketching, nor seeking information, 
but just taking in scene after scene, with its manifold com- 
binations of light and shade, color, costume, and architect- 
ural detail. Every shop front, every street corner, every 
turbaned group is a ready-made picture. The old Turk 
who sets up his cake stall in the recess of a sculptured 
doorway; the donkey boy, with his gayly caparisoned ass, 
waiting for customers; the beggar asleep on the steps of 
the mosque; the veiled woman filling her water jar at the 
public fountain — they all look as if they had been put 
there expressly to be painted. 

Nor is the background less picturesque than the figures. 
The houses are high and narrow. The upper stories pro- 
ject; and from these again jut windows of delicate turned 
lattice work in old brown wood, like big bird-cages. The 
street is roofed in overhead with long rafters and pieces of 
matting, through Avhich a dusty sunbeam straggles here 


and there, casting patches of light upon the moving 
crowd. The unpaved thoroughfare — a mere narrow lane, 
full of ruts and watered profusely twice or thrice a day — is 
lined with little wooden shop fronts, like open cabinets full 
of shelves, where the merchants sit cross-legged in the 
midst of their goods, looking out at the passers-by and 
smoking in silence. Meanwhile, the crowd ebbs and flows 
unceasingly — a noisy, changing, restless, party-colored 
tide, half European, half oriental, on foot, on horse- 
back, and in carriages. Here are Syrian dragomans in 
baggy trousers and braided jackets; barefooted Egyptian 
fellaheen in ragged blue shirts and felt skull-caps ; 
Greeks in absurdly stiff white tunics, like walking 
pen-wipers ; Persians with high miter-like caps of dark 
woven stuff; swarthy Bedouins in flowing garments, creamy- 
white, with chocolate stripes a foot wide, and head-shawl 
of the same bound about the brow with a fillet of twisted 
camel's hair ; Englishmen in palm-leaf hats and knicker- 
bockers, dangling theirlong legs across almost invisible don- 
keys ; native women of the poorer class, in black veils that 
leave only the eyes uncovered, and long trailing gar- 
ments of dark blue and black striped cotton; der- 
vishes in patchwork coats, their matted hair streaming 
from under fantastic head-dresses; blue-black Abyssinians 
with incredibly slender, bowed legs, like attenuated ebony 
balustrades; Armenian priests, looking exactly like Portia 
as the doctor, in long black gowns and high square caps; 
majestic ghosts of Algerine Arabs, all in white; mounted 
Janissaries with jingling sabers and gold-embroidered 
jackets; merchants, beggars, soldiers, boatmen, laborers, 
workmen, in every variety of costume, and of every shade 
of complexion from fair to dark, from tawny to copper- 
color, from deepest bronze to bluest black. 

Now a water-carrier goes by, bending under the weight 
of his newly replenished goatskin, the legs of which being 
tied up, the neck fitted with a brass cock, and the hair left 
on, looks horribly bloated and life-like. Now conies a 
sweetmeat-vender with a tray of that gummy compound 
known to English children as " lumps of delight ; and 
now an Egyptian lady on a large gray donkey led 
by a servant with a showy saber at his side. The 
lady wears a rose-colored silk dress and white veil, be- 
sides a black silk outer garment, which, being cloak, 


hood, and veil all in one, fills out with the wind as she 
rides, like a balloon. She sits astride; her naked feet, 
in their violet velvet slippers, just resting on the stirrups. 
She takes care to display a plump brown arm laden with 
massive gold bracelets, and, to judge by the way in which 
she uses a pair of liquid black eyes, would not be sorry to 
let her face be seen also. Nor is the steed less well dressed 
than his mistress. His close-shaven legs and hindquarters 
are painted in hlue and white zigzags picked out with bands 
of pale yellow; his high-pommeled saddle is resplendent 
with velvet and embroidery; and his head -gear is all tags, 
tassels, and fringes. Such a donkey as this is worth from 
sixty to a hundred pounds sterling. Next passes an open 
barouche full of laughing Englishwomen; or a grave pro- 
vincial sheik all in black, riding a handsome bay Arab, 
demi-sang; or an Egyptian gentleman in European dress 
and Turkish fez, driven by an English groom in an En- 
glish phaeton. Before him, wand in hand, bare-legged, 
eager-eyed, in Greek skull-cap and gorgeous gold-embroi- 
dered waistcoat and fluttering white tunic, flies a native 
sai's, or running footman. No person of position drives 
in Cairo without one or two of these attendants. The 
sai's (strong, light and beautiful, like John of Bologna's 
Mercury) are said to die young. The pace kills them. 
Next passes a lemonade-seller, with his tin jar in one hand 
and his decanter and brass cups in the other; or an itiner- 
ant slipper-vender with a bunch of red and yellow morocco 
shoes dangling at the end of a long pole; or a London- 
built miniature brougham containing two ladies in trans- 
parent Turkish veils, preceded by a Nubian outrider in 
semi-military livery; or, perhaps, a train of camels, ill- 
tempered and supercilious, craning their scrannel necks 
above the crowd, and laden with canvas bales scrawled over 
with Arabic addresses. 

But the Egyptian, Arab and Turkish merchants, whether 
mingling in the general tide or sitting on their counters, 
are the most picturesque personages in all this busy scene. 
They wear ample turbans, for the most part white; long 
vests of striped Syrian silk reaching to the feet; and an 
outer robe of braided cloth or cashmere. The vest is con- 
fined round the waist by a rich sash ; and the outer robe, 
or gibbeh, is generally of some beautiful degraded color, 
such as maize, mulberry, olive, peach, sea-green, salmon- 


pink, sienna-brown, and the like. That these stately 
beings should vulgarly buy and sell, instead of reposing all 
their lives on luxurious divans and being waited upon by 
beautiful Circassians, seems altogether contrary to the 
eternal fitness of things. Here, for instance, is a grand 
vizier in a gorgeous white and amber satin vest, who con- 
descends to retail pipe-bowls — dull red clay pipe-bowls of 
all sizes and prices. He sells nothing else, and has not only a 
pile of them on the counter, but abinful at the back of his 
shop. They are made at Siout, in Upper Egypt, and may 
be bought at the Algerine shops in London almost as 
cheaply as in Cairo. Another majestic pasha deals in 
brass and copper vessels, drinking-cups, basins, ewers, 
trays, incense-burners, chafing-dishes, and the like; some 
of which are exquisitely engraved with arabesque patterns 
or sentences from the poets. A third sells silks from the 
looms of Lebanon and gold and silver tissues from Damas- 
cus. Others, again, sell old arms, old porcelian, old em- 
broideries, second-hand prayer-carpets, and quaint little 
stools and cabinets of ebony inlaid with mother-of-pearl. 
•Here, too, the tobacco merchant sits behind a huge cake 
of latakia as big as his own body; and the sponge mer- 
chant smokes his long chibouk in a bower of sponges. 

Most amusing of all, however, are those bazaars in 
which each trade occupies its separate quarter. You pass 
through an old stone gateway or down a narrow turning, 
and find yourself amid a colony of saddlers, stitching, 
hammering, punching, riveting. You walk up one alley 
and down another, between shop fronts hung round with 
tasseled head-gear and hump-backed saddles of all qualities 
and colors. Here .are ladies' saddles, military saddles, 
donkey saddles, and saddles for great officers of state; 
saddles covered with red leather, with crimson and violet 
velvet, with maroon, and gray, and purple cloth ; saddles 
embroidered with gold and silver, studded with brass- 
headed nails, or trimmed with braid. 

Another turn or two, and you are in the slipper bazaar, 
walking down avenues of red" and yellow morocco slippers; 
the former of home manufacture, the latter from Tunis. 
Here are slippers with pointed toes, turned-up toes, and 
toes as round and flat as horseshoes; walking slippers 
with thick soles, and soft yellow slippers to be worn as 
inside socks, which have no soles at all. These absurd 


little scarlet bluchers with tassels are for little boys; the 
brown morocco shoes are for grooms ; the velvet slippers 
embroidered with gold and beads and seed pearls are for 
wealthy hareens, and are sold at prices varying from five 
shillings to five pounds the pair. 

The carpet bazaar is of considerable extent, and consists of 
a network of alleys and counter-alleys opening off to the 
right of the Muski, which is the Regent street of Cairo. 
The houses in most of these alleys are rich in antique 
lattice windows and Saracenic doorways. One little square 
is tapestried all round with Persian and Syrian rugs, 
Damascus saddle-bags, and Turkish prayer-carpets. The 
merchants sit and smoke in the midst of their goods ; and 
up in one corner an old "kahwagee," or coffee-seller, plies 
his humble trade. He has set up his little stove and hang- 
ing-shelf beside the doorway of a dilapidated khan, the 
walls of which are faced with arabesque panelings infold 
carved stone. It is one of the most picturesque " bits " in 
Cairo. The striped carpets of Tunis ; the dim gray and 
blue, or gray and red fabrics of Algiers; the shaggy 
rugs of Laodicea and Smyrna ; the rich blues and greens 
and subdued reds of Turkey ; and the wonderfully varied, 
harmonious patterns of Persia, have each their local 
habitation in the neighboring alleys. One is never tired 
of traversing these half-lighted avenues all aglow with 
gorgeous color and peopled with figures that come and go 
like the actors in some Christmas piece of oriental 

In the'Khan Khaleel, the place of the gold and silver 
smiths' bazaar, there is found, on the contrary, scarcely 
any display of goods for sale. The alleys are so narrow m 
this part that two persons can with difficulty walk in them 
abreast ; and the shops, tinier than ever, are mere cup- 
boards with about three feet of frontage. The back of each 
cupboard is fitted with tiers of little drawers and pigeon- 
holes, and in front is a kind of matted stone step, called a 
mastabah, which serves for seat and counter. The customer 
sits on the edge of the mastabah ; the merchant squats, 
cross-legged, inside. In this position he can, without 
rising, take out drawer after drawer ; and thus^ the space 
between the two becomes piled with gold and silver orna- 
ments. These differ from each other only in the metal, 
the patterns being identical ; and they are sold by weight, 


with a due margin for profit. In dealing with strangers 
who do not understand the Egyptian system of weights, 
silver articles are commonly weighed against rupees or five- 
franc pieces, and gold articles against napoleons or 
sovereigns. The ornaments made in Cairo consist chiefly 
of chains and earrings, anklets, bangles, necklaces strung 
with coins or tusk-shaped pendants, amulet-cases of filigree 
or repousse work, and penannular bracelets of rude exe- 
cution, but rich and ancient designs. As for the merchants 
their civility and patience are inexhaustible. One may turn 
over their'whole stock, try on all their bracelets, go away 
again and again without buying, and yet be always wel- 
comed and dismissed with smiles. L and the writer 

spent many an hour practicing Arabic in the Khan 
Khaleel, without, it is to be feared, a corresponding 
degree of benefit to the merchants. 

There are many other special bazaars in Cairo, 
as the sweetmeat bazaar ; the hardware bazaar ; 
the tobacco bazaar ; the sword-mounters' and copper- 
smiths' bazaars ; the Moorish bazaar, where fez caps, 
burnouses and Barbary goods are sold ; and some 
extensive bazaars for the sale of English and 
French muslins and Manchester cotton goods ; but 
these last are for the most part of inferior interest. Among 
certain fabrics manufactured in England expressly for the 
eastern market, we observed a most hideous printed muslin 
representing small black devils capering over a yellow 
ground, and we learned that it was much in favor for 
children's dresses. 

But the bazaars, however picturesque, are far from being 
the only sights of Cairo. There are mosques in plenty; 
grand old Saracenic gates; ancient Coptic churches; the 
museum of Egyptian antiquities; and, within driving dis- 
tance, the tombs of the Caliphs, Heliopolis, the Pyramids 
and the Sphinx. To remember in what order the present 
travelers saw these things would now be impossible; for 
they lived in a dream and were at first too bewildered to 
catalogue their impressions very methodically. Some 
places they were for the present obliged to dismiss with 
only a passing glance; others had to be wholly deferred till 
their return to Cairo. 

In the meanwhile, our first business was to look at daha- 
beeyahs; and the looking at dahabeeyahs compelled us 


constantly to turn our steps and our thoughts in the direc- 
tion of Boulak — a desolate place by the river, where some 
two or three hundred Nile boats lay moored for hire. Now, 
most persons know something of the miseries of house- 
hunting, but only those who have experienced them know 
how much keener are the miseries of dahabeeyah-hunting. It 
is more bewildering and more fatiguing, and is beset by its 
own special and peculiar difficulties. The boats, in the first 
place, are all built on the same plan, which is not the case 
with houses; and, except as they run bigger or smaller, 
cleaner or dirtier, are as like each other as twin oysters. 
The same may be said of their captains, with the same dif- 
ferences; for, to a person who has been only a few days 
in Egypt, one black or copper-colored man is exactly like 
every other black or copper-colored man. Then each rei's, 
or captain, displays the certificates given him by former 
travelers ; and these certificates, being apparently in 
active circulation, have a mysterious way of turning 
up again and again on board different boats and in the 
hands of different claimants. Nor is this all. Dahabee- 
yahs are given to changing their places, which houses do 
not do; so that the boats which lay yesterday alongside 
the eastern bank may be over at the western bank to-day, 
or hidden in the midst of a dozen others half a mile lower 
down the river. All this is very perplexing; yet it is as 
nothing compared with the state of confusion one gets into 
when attempting to weigh the advantages or disadvantages 
of boats with six cabins and boats with eight; boats pro- 
vided with canteen, and boats without; boats that can pass 
the cataract, and boats that can't; boats that are only twice 
as dear as they ought to be, and boats with that defect five 
orsix times multiplied. Their names, again — ghazal, sar- 
awa, fostat, dongola — unlike any names one has ever 
heard before, afford as yet no kind of help to the 
memory. Neither do the names of their captains; for they 
are all Mohammeds or Hassans. Neither do their prices; 
for they vary from day to day, according to the state of 
the market as shown by the returns of arrivals at the prin- 
cipal hotels. 

Add to all this the fact that no rei's speaks anything 
but Arabic, and that every word of inquiry or negotiation 
has to be filtered, more or less inaccurately, through a 
dragoman, and then perhaps those who have not yet tried 


this variety of the pleasures of the chase may be able to 
form some notion of the weary, hopeless, puzzling work 
which lies before the dahabeeyah-hunter in Cairo. 

Thus it came to pass that, for the first ten days or so, 
some three or four hours had to be devoted every morning 
to the business of the boats; at the end of which time we 
were no nearer a conclusion than at first. The small boats 
were too small for either comfort or safety, especially in 
what Nile travelers call " a big wind." The medium-sized 
boats (which lie under the suspicion of being used in sum- 
mer for the transport of cargo) were for the most part of 
doubtful cleanliness. The largest boats, which alone 
seemed unexceptionable, contained from eight to ten 
cabins, besides two saloons, and were obviously too large 

for a party consisting of only L , the writer and a maid. 

And all were exorbitantly dear. Encompassed by these 
manifold difficulties; listening now to this and now to that 
person's opinion ; deliberating, haggling, comparing, hesi- 
tating, we vibrated daily between Boulak and Cairo and 
led a miserable life. Meanwhile, however, we met some 
former acquaintances; made some new ones; and when 
not too tired or downhearted, saw what we could of the 
sights of Cairo — which helped a little to soften the asperi- 
ties of our lot. 

One of our first excursions was, of course, to the pyramids, 
which lie within an hour and a half's easy drive from the 
hotel door. We started immediately after an early luncheon, 
followed an excellent road all the way and were back in 
time for dinner at half-past six. But it must be under- 
stood that we did not go to see the pyramids. We went 
only to look at them. Later on (having meanwhile been 
up the Nile and back and gone through months of train- 
ing), we came again, not only with due leisure, but also 
with some practical understanding of the manifold phases 
through which the arts and architecture of Egypt had 
passed since those far-off days of Cheops and Chephren. 
Then, only, we can be said to have seen the pyramids; and 
till we arrive at that stage of our pilgrimage it will be well 
to defer everything like a detailed account of them or their 
surroundings. Of this first brief visit, enough, therefore, a 
brief record. 

The first glimpse that most travelers now get of the 
pyramids is from the window of the railway carriage as 


they come from Alexandria; and it is not impressive. It 
does not take one's breath away, for instance, like a first 
sight of the Alps from the high level of the Neufchatel 
line, or the outline of the Acropolis at Athens as one first 
recognizes it from the sea. The well-known triangular 
forms look small and shadowy, and are too familiar to be 
in any way startling. And the same, I think, is true of 
every distant view of them — that is, of every view which is 
too distant to afford the means of scaling them against 
other objects. It is only in approaching them, and ob- 
serving how they grow with every foot of the road, that 
one begins to feel they are not so familiar after all. 

But when at last the edge of the desert is reached, and 
the long sand-slope climbed, and the rocky platform 
gained, and the great pyramid in all its unexpected bulk 
and majesty towers close above one's head, the effect is as 
sudden as it is overwhelming. It shuts out the sky and 
the horizon. It shuts out all the other pyramids. It shuts 
out everything but the sense of awe and wonder. 

Now, too, one discovers that it was with the forms of 
the pyramids, and only their forms, that one had been ac- 
quainted all these years past. Of their surface, their color, 
their relative position, their number (to say nothing of 
their size), one had hitherto entertained no kind of 
definite idea. The most careful study of plans and 
measurements, the clearest photographs, the most elabo- 
rate descriptions, had done little or nothing, after all, to 
make one know the place beforehand. This undulating 
table-land of sand and rock, pitted with open graves and 
cumbered with mounds of shapeless masonry, is wholly 
unlike the desert of our dreams. The pyramids of Cheops 
and Chephren are bigger than we had expected; the pyra- 
mid of Mycerinusis smaller. Here, too, are nine pyramids, 
instead of three. They are all entered in the plans and 
mentioned in the guide-books; but, somehow, one is un- 
prepared to find them there, and cannot help looking upon 
them as intruders. These six extra pyramids are small 
and greatly dilapidated. One, indeed, is little more than 
a big cairn. 

Even the great pyramid puzzles us with an unexpected 
sense of unlikeness. We all know and have known from 
childhood, that it was stripped of its outer blocks some 
five hundred years ago to build Arab mosques and palaces; 


but the rugged, rock-like aspect of that giant staircase 
takes us by surprise, nevertheless. Nor does it look like a 
partial ruin either. It looks as if it had been left un- 
finished, and as if the workmen might be coming back to- 
morrow morning. 

The color again is a surprise. Few persons can be aware 
beforehand of the rich tawny hue that Egyptian limestone 
assumes after ages of exposure to the blaze of an Egyptian 
sky. Seen in certain lights, the pyramids look like piles 
of massy gold. 

Having but one hour and forty minutes to spend on the 
spot, we resolutely refused on this first occasion to be 
shown anything, or told anything, or to be taken any- 
where — except, indeed, for a few minutes to the brink of 
the sand hollow in which the Sphinx lies couchant. We 
wished to give our whole attention, and all the short time 
at our disposal, to the great pyramid only. To gain some 
impression of the outer aspect and size of this enormous 
structure — to steady our minds to something like an under- 
standing of its age — was enough, and more than enough, 
for so brief a visit. 

For it is no easy task to realize, however imperfectly, 
the duration of six or seven thousand years; and the great 
pyramid, which is supposed to have been some four thou- 
sand two hundred and odd years old at the time of the 
birth of Christ, is now in its seventh millenary. Stand- 
ing there close against the base of it; touching it; measur- 
ing her own height against one of its lowest blocks; looking 
up all the stages of that vast, receding, rugged wall, which 
leads upward like an Alpine buttress and seems almost to 
touch the sky, the writer suddenly became aware that 
these remote dates had never presented themselves to her 
mind until this moment as anything but abstract numerals. 
Now, for the first time, they resolved themselves into 
something concrete, definite, real. They were no longer 
figures, but years with their changes of season, their high 
and low Niles, their seed-times and harvests. The con- 
sciousness of that moment will never, perhaps, quite wear 
away. It was as if one had been snatched up for an 
instant to some vast height overlooking the plains of time, 
and had seen the centuries mapped out beneath one's feet. 

To appreciate the size of the great pyramid is less diffi- 
cult than to apprehend its age. No one who has walked 



the length of one side, climbed to the top, and learned the 
dimensions from Murray, can fail to form a tolerably clear 
idea of its mere bnlk. The measurements given by Sir 
Gardner Wilkinson are as follows: Length of each side, 
732 feet; perpendicular height, 480 feet 9 inches; area, 
535,824 square feet.* That is to say it stands 115 feet 9 
inches higher than the cross on the top of St. Paul's and 
about 20 feet lower than Box Hill in Surrey; and if trans- 
ported bodily to London, it would a little more than cover 
the whole area of Lincoln's Inn Fields. These are suffi- 
ciently matter-of-fact statements and sufficiently intelligi- 
ble; but, like most calculations of the kind, they diminish 
rather than do justice to the dignity of the subject. 

More impressive by far than the weightiest array of fig- 
ures or the most striking comparisons, was the shadow cast 
by the great pyramid as the sun went down. That mighty 
shadow, sharp and distinct, stretched across the stony 
platform of the desert and over full three quarters of a 
mile of the green plain below. It divided the sunlight 
where it fell, just as its great original divided the sunlight 

* Since the first edition of this book was issued, the publication of 
Mr. W. M. Flinders Petrie's standard work, entitled " The Pyramids 
and Temples of (iizeh," has for the first time placed a thoroughly accu- 
rate and scientific description of the great pyramid at the disposal 
of students. Calculating from the rock-cut sockets at the four 
corners, and from the true level of the pavement, Mr. Petrie finds 
that the square of the original base of the structure, in inches, is of 
these dimensions: 

from Mean. 



from Mean. 





— 3' 20" 







— 3' 57" 





— 3' 41" 






— 3' 54" 





— 3' 43" 


For the height, Mr. Petrie, after duly weighing all data, such as 
the thickness of the three casing-stones yet in situ, and the pre- 
sumed thickness of those which formerly faced the upper courses of 
the masonry, gives from his observations of the mean angle of the 
pyramid, a height from base to apex of 5776.0 + 7.0 inches. See 
"The Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh," chap. vi. pp. 37-43. [Note 
to the second edition.] 


in the upper air; and it darkened the space it covered, 
like an eclijise. It was not without a thrill of something 
approaching to awe that one remembered hew this self- 
same shadow had gone on registering not only the height 
of the most stupendous gnomon ever set up by human 
hands, but the slow passage day by day of more than sixty 
centuries of the world's history. 

It was still lengthening over the landscape as we went 
down the long sand-slope and regained the carriage. Some 
six or eight Arabs in fluttering white garments ran on 
ahead to bid us a last good-by. That we should have 
driven over from Cairo only to sit quietly down and look 
at the great pyramid had filled them with unfeigned aston- 
ishment. With such energy and dispatch as the modern 
traveler uses, we might have been to the top and seen the 
temple of the Sphinx and done two or three of the prin- 
cipal tombs in the time. 

" You come again!" said they. " Good Arab show 
you everything. You see nothing this time!" 

So, promising to return ere long, we drove away; 
well content, nevertheless, with the way in which our 
time had been spent. 

The pyramid Bedouins have been plentifully abused by 
travelers and guide-books, but we found no reason to 
complain of them now or afterward. They neither crowded 
round us, nor followed us, nor importuned us in any way. 
They are naturally vivacious and very talkative ; yet the 
gentle fellows were dumb as mutes when they found we 
wished for silence. And they were satisfied with a very 
moderate bakhshish at parting. 

As a fitting sequel to this excursion, we went, I think 
next day, to see the mosque of Sultan Hassan, which is 
one of those mediaeval structures said to have been built 
with the casing-stones of the great pyramid. . 




The mosque of Sultan Hassan, confessedly the most 
beautiful iu Cairo, is also perhaps the most beautiful in the 
Moslem world. It was built at just that happy moment 
when Arabian art in Egypt, having ceased merely to appro- 
priate or imitate, had at length evolved an original archi- 
tectural style out of the heterogeneous elements of Roman 
and early Christian edifices. The mosques of a few cent- 
uries earlier (as, for instance, that of Tulun, which 
marks the first departure from the old Byzantine model) 
consisted of little more than a court-yard with colonnades 
leading to a hall supported on a forest of pillars. A little 
more than a century later, and the national style had 
already experienced the beginnings of that prolonged 
eclipse which finally resulted in the bastard Neo-ByzantiiiR 
renaissance represented by the mosque of Mehemet All. 
But the mosque of Sultan Hassan, built ninety-seven 
years before the taking of Constantinople, may justly be 
regarded as the highest point reached by Saracenic art in 
Egypt after it had used up the Greek and Roman material 
of Memphis, and before its new-born originality became 
modified by influences from beyond the Bosporus. Its 
pre-eminence is due neither to the greatness of its dimen- 
sions nor to the splendor of its materials. It is neither so 
large as the great mosque at Damascus, nor so rich in 
costly marbles as Saint Sophia in Constantinople; but iu 
design, proportion, and a certain lofty grace impossible to 
describe, it surpasses these, and every other mosque, 
whether original or adapted, with which the writer is 

The whole structure is purely national. Every line and 
curve in it, and every inch of detail, is in the best style of 
the best period of the Arabian school. And above all, it 
was designed expressly for its present purpose. The two 


famous mosques of Damascus and Constantinople having, 
on the contrary, been Christian churches, betray evidences 
of adaptation. In Saint Sophia, the space once occupied 
by the figure of the Eedeemer may be distinctly traced in 
the mosaic work of the apsis, filled in with gold tesserae of 
later date ; while the magnificent gates of the great 
mosque at Damascus are decorated, among other Christian 
emblems, with the sacramental chalice. But the mosque 
of Sultan Hassan, built by En Nasir Hassan in the high 
and palmy days of the Memlook rule, is marred by no 
discrepancies. For a mosque it was designed, and a 
mosque it remains. Too soon it will be only a beautiful 

A number of small streets having lately been demolished 
in this quarter, the approach to the mosque lies across a 
desolate open space littered with debris, but destined to be 
laid out as a public square. With this desirable end in 
view, some half-dozen workmen were lazily loading as 
many camels with rubble, which is the Arab way of cart- 
ing rubbish. If they persevere, and the minister of pub- 
lic works continues to pay their wages with due punctu- 
ality, the ground will perhaps get cleared in eight or ten 
years' time. 

Driving up with some difficulty to the foot of the great 
steps, which were crowded with idlers smoking and sleep- 
ing, we observed a long and apparently fast-widening 
fissure reaching nearly from top to bottom of the main 
wall of the building, close against the minaret. It looked 
like just such a rent as might be caused by a shock of 
earthquake, and, being still new to the east, we wondered 
the government had not set to work to mend it. We had 
yet to learn that nothing is ever mended in Cairo. Here, 
as in Constantinople, new buildings spring up apace, but 
the old, no matter how venerable, are allowed to molder 
away, inch by inch, till nothing remains but a heap of 

Going up the steps and through a lofty hall, up some 
more steps and along a gloomy corridor, we came to the 
great court, before entering which, however, we had to 
take off our boots and put on slippers brought for the 
purpose. The first sight of this court is an architectural 
surprise. It is like nothing one has seen before, and its 
beauty equals its novelty. Imagine an immense marble 


quadrangle, open to the sky and inclosed within lofty walls, 
with, at each side, a vast recess framed in by a single arch. 
The quadrangle is more than one hundred feet square, and 
the walls are more than one hundred feet high. Each 
recess forms a spacious hall for rest and prayer, and all are 
matted; but that at the eastern end is wider and consider- 
ably deeper than the other three, and the noble arch that 
incloses it like the proscenium of a splendid stage, meas- 
ures, according to Fergusson, sixty-nine feet five inches in 
the span. It looks much larger. This principal hall, the 
floor of which is raised one step at the upper end, measures 
ninety feet in depth and ninety in height. The dais is 
covered with prayer-rugs, and contains the holy niche and 
the pulpit of the preacher. We observed that those who 
came up here came only to pray. Having prayed, they 
either went away or turned aside into one of the other 
recesses to rest. There was a charming fountain in the 
court with a dome roof as light and fragile looking as a 
big bubble, at which each worshiper performed his ablu- 
tions on coming in. This done, he left his slippers on the 
matting and trod the carpeted dais barefoot. 

This was the first time we had seen moslems at prayer, 
and we could not but be impressed by their profound and 
unaffected devotion. Some lay prostrate, their foreheads 
touching the ground ; others were kneeling ; others bowing 
in the prescribed attitudes of prayer. So absorbed were 
they, that not even our unhallowed presence seemed to 
disturb them. We did not then know that the pious mos- 
leni is as devout out of the mosque as in it ; or that it is 
his habit to pray when the appointed hours come round, 
no matter where he may be, or how occupied. We soon 
became so familiar, however, with this obvious trait of 
Mohammedan life, that it seemed quite a matter of course 
that the camel-driver should dismount and lay his fore- 
head in the dust by the roadside ; or the merchant spread 
his prayer-carpet on the narrow mastabah of his little shop 
in the public bazaar ; or the boatman prostrate himself 
with his face to the east, as the sun went down behind the 
hills of the Libyan desert. 

While we were admiring the spring of the roof and the 
intricate arabesque decorations of the pulpit, a custode 
came up with a big key and invited us to visit the tomb of 
the founder, So we followed him into an enormous 


vaulted hall a hundred feet square, in the center of which 
stood a plain, railed-off tomb, with an empty iron-bound 
coffer at the foot. We afterward learned that for five 
hundred years — that is to say, ever since the death and 
burial of Sultan Hassan — this coffer had contained a fine 
copy of the Koran, traditionally said to have been written 
by Sultan Hassan's own hand ; but that the khedive, who 
is collecting choice and antique Arabic manuscripts, had 
only the other day sent an order for its removal. 

Nothing can be bolder or more elegant than the propor- 
tions of this noble sepulchral hall, the walls of which are 
covered with tracery in low relief incrusted with disks and 
tesserae of turquoise-colored porcelain; while high up, in 
order to lead off the vaulting of the roof, the corners are 
rounded by means of recessed clusters of exquisite arabesque 
woodwork, like pendent stalactites. But the tesserae 
are fast falling out, and most of their places are 
vacant; and the beautiful woodwork hangs in fragments, 
tattered and cobwebbed, like time-worn banners, which the 
first touch of a brush would bring down. 

Going back again from the tomb to the court-yard, we 
everywhere observed traces of the same dilapidation. The 
fountain, once a miracle of Saracenic ornament, was fast 
going to destruction. The rich marbles of its basement 
were cracked and discolored, its stuccoed cupola was flak- 
ing off piecemeal, its enamels were dropping out, its lace- 
like wood tracery shredding away by inches. 

Presently a tiny brown and golden bird perched with 
pretty confidence on the brink of the basin, and hav- 
ing splashed, and drunk, and preened its feathers like a 
true believer at his ablutions, flew up to the top of the 
cupola and sang deliciously. All else was profoundly 
still. Large spaces of light and shadow divided the quad- 
rangle. The sky showed overhead as a square opening of 
burning solid blue; while here and there, reclining, pray- 
ing, or quietly occupied, a number of turbaned figures 
were picturesquely scattered over the matted floors of the 
open halls around. Yonder sat a tailor cross-legged, mak- 
ing a waistcoat ; near him, stretched on his face at full 
length, sprawled a basket-maker with his half- woven 
basket and bundle of rushes beside him ; and here, close 
against the main entrance, lay a blind man and his dog; 
the master asleep, the dog keeping watch. It was, as I 


have said, our first mosque, and I well remember the sur- 
prise with which Ave saw that tailor sewing on his buttons 
and the sleepers lying about in the shade. We did not 
then know that a Mohammedan mosque is as much a place 
of rest and refuge as of prayer ; or that the houseless Arab 
may take shelter there by night or day as freely as the 
birds may build their nests in the cornice, or as the blind 
man's dog may share the cool shade with his sleeping 

From the mosque of this Memlook sovereign it is but a 
few minutes' uphill drive to the mosque of Mehemet Ali, 
by whose orders the last of that royal race were massacred 
just sixty-four years ago.* This mosque, built within the 
precincts of the citadel on a spur of the Mokattam Hills 
overlooking the city, is the most conspicuous object in 
Cairo. Its attenuated minarets and clustered domes show 
from every point of view for miles around, and remain 
longer in sight, as one leaves, or returns to, Cairo, than 
any other landmark. It is a spacious, costly, gaudy, com- 
monplace building, with nothing really beautiful about it. 
except the great marble court-yard and fountain. Tho 
inside, which is entirely built of oriental alabaster, is car- 
peted with magnificent Turkey carpets and hung with in- 
numerable cut-glass chandeliers, so that it looks like a 
huge vulgar drawing-room from which the furniture has 
been cleared out for dancing. 

The view from the outer platform is, however, magnifi- 
cent. AVe saw it on a hazy day, and could not therefore 
distinguish the point of the delta, which ought to have 
been visible on the north ; but we could plainly see as far 
southward as the pyramids of Sakkarah, and trace the 
windings of the Kile for many miles across the plain. 
The pyramids of Ghizeh, on their dais of desert rock 
about twelve miles off, looked, as they always do look 
from a distance, small and unimpressive ; but the great 
alluvial valley dotted over with mud villages and inter- 
sected by canals and tracts of palm forest ; the shining 
river specked with sails ; and the wonderful city, all flat 
roofs, cupolas, and minarets, spread out like an intricate 
model at one's feet, were full of interest and absorbed our 

* Now, seventy-seven years ago ; the first edition of this book 
having been published thirteen years ago. [Note to second edition.] 


whole attention. Looking down upon it from this eleva- 
tion, it is as easy to believe that Cairo contains four hun- 
dred mosques, as it is to stand on the brow of the Pincio 
and believe in the three hundred and sixty-five churches 
of modern Rome. 

As we came away, they showed us the place in which the 
MemloDk nobles, four hundred and seventy* in number, 
were shot down like mad-dogs in a trap, that fatal first of 
March, a.d. 1811. We saw the upper gate which was shut 
behind them as they came out from the presence of the 
pasha, and the lower gate which was shut before them to 
prevent their egress. The walls of the narrow roadway in 
which the slaughter was done are said to be pitted with 
bullet marks; but we would not look for them. 

I have already said that I do not very distinctly re- 
member the order of our sight-seeing in Cairo, for the 
reason that we saw some places before we went up the 
river, some after we came back, and some (as for instance 
the museum at Boulak) both before and after, and indeed 
as often as possible. But I am at least quite certain that 
we witnessed a performance of howling dervishes, and the 
departure of the caravan for Mecca, before starting. 

Of all the things that people do by way of pleasure, the 
pursuit of a procession is surely one of the most wearisome. 
They generally go a long way to see it; they wait a weary 
time; it is always late; and when at length it does come, it 
is over in a few minutes. The present pageant fulfilled all 
these conditions in a superlative degree. We breakfasted 
uncomfortably early, started soon after half-past seven, and 
had taken up our position outside the Bab en-Xasr, on the 
way to the desert, by half-past eight. Here we sat for 
nearly three hours, exposed to clouds of dust and a burning 
sun, with nothing to do but to watch the crowd and wait 
patiently. All Shepheard's Hotel were there, and every 
stranger in Cairo; and we all had smart open carriages 
drawn by miserable screws and driven by bare-legged Arabs. 
These Arabs, by the way, are excellent whips, and the 

* One only is said to have escaped — a certain Emin Bey, who leaped 
his horse over a gap in the wall, alighted safely in the piazza below, 
and galloped away into the desert. The place of this famous leap 
continued to be shown for many years, but there are no gaps in the 
wall now, the citadel being the only place in Cairo which is kept in 
thorough repair. 


screws get along wonderfully; but it seems odd at first, and 
not a little humiliating, to be whirled along behind a 
coachman whose oidy livery consists of a rag of dirty white 
turban, a scant tunic just reaching to his knees, and the 
top boots with which nature has provided him. 

Here, outside the walls, the crowd increased momentarily. 
The place was like a fair with provision stalls, swings, 
story-tellers, serpent-charmers, cake-sellers, sweetmeat- 
sellers, sellers of sherbet, water, lemonade, sugared nuts, 
fresh dates, hard-boiled eggs, oranges and sliced water- 
melon. Veiled women carrying little bronze Cupids of 
children astride upon the right shoulder, swarthy 
Egyptians, coal-black Abyssinians, xVmbs and Nubians of 
every shade from golden-brown to chocolate, fellahs, der- 
vishes, donkey boys, street urchins and beggars with every 
imaginable deformity, came and went ; squeezed them- 
selves in and out among the carriages; lined the road on 
each side of the great towered gateway; swarmed on the 
top of every wall; and filled the air with laughter, a babel 
of dialects, and those of Araby that are inseparable from 
an eastern crowd. A harmless, unsavory, good-humored, 
inoffensive throng, one glance at which was enough to put 
to flight all one's preconceived notions about oriental 
gravity of demeanor! For the truth is that gravity is by 
no means an oriental characteristic. Take a Moham- 
medan at his devotions, and he is a model of religious ab- 
straction; bargain with him for a carpet, and he is as 
impenetrable as a judge; but see him in his hours of re- 
laxation, or on the occasion of a public holiday, and he is 
as garrulous and full of laughter as a big child. Like a 
child, too, he loves noise and movement for the mere sake 
of noise and movement, and looks upon swings and fire- 
works as the height of human felicity. Now swings and 
fire-works are Arabic for bread and circuses, and our pleb's 
passion for them is insatiable. He not only indulges in 
them upon every occasion of public rejoicing, but calls in 
their aid to celebrate the most solemn festivals of his 
religion. It so happened that we afterward came in the 
way of several Mohammedan festivals both in Egypt and 
Syria, and we invariably found the swings at work all day 
and the fire-works going off every evening. 

To-day the swings outside the Bab en-Nasr were never 
idle. Here were creaking Russian swings hung with little 


painted chariots for the children; and plain rope swings, 
some of them as high as Hainan's gallows, for the men. 
For my own part, I know no sight more comic and incon- 
gruous than the serene enjoyment with which a bearded, 
turbaned, middle-aged Egyptian squats upon his heels on 
the tiny wooden seat of one of these enormous swings, and, 
holding on to the side-ropes for dear life, goes careering up 
forty feet high into the air at every turn. 

At a little before midday, when the heat and glare were 
becoming intolerable, the swings suddenly ceased going, 
the crowd surged in the direction of the gate, and a distant 
drumming announced the approach of the procession. 
First came a string of baggage-camels laden with tent fur- 
niture; then some two hundred pilgrims on foot, chanting 
passages from the Koran; then a regiment of Egyptian in- 
fantry, the men in a coarse white linen uniform, consisting 
of coat, baggy trousers and gaiters, with cross-belts and 
cartouche-boxes of plain black leather, and the red fez, or 
tarboosh, on the head. Next after these came more pil- 
grims, followed by a body of dervishes carrying green ban- 
ners embroidered with Arabic sentences in white and yel- 
low; then a native cavalry regiment headed by a general 
and four colonels in magnificent gold embroidery and pre- 
ceded by an excellent military band; then another band 
and a second regiment of infantry; then more colonels, 
followed by a regiment of lancers mounted on capital gray 
horses and carrying lances topped with small red and 
green pennants. After these had gone by there was a long 
stoppage, and then, with endless breaks and interruptions, 
came a straggling, irregular crowd of pilgrims, chiefly of 
the fellah class, beating small darabukkehs, or native 
drums. Those about us estimated their number at two 
thousand. And now, their guttural chorus audible long 
before they arrived in sight, came the howling dervishes — 
a ragged, wild-looking, ruffianly set, rolling their heads 
from side to side, and keeping up a hoarse, incessant cry 
of " Allah! Allah! Allah!" Of these there may have been 
a couple of hundred. The sheiks of the principal order 
of dervishes came next in order, superbly dressed in robes 
of brilliant colors embroidered with gold and mounted on 
magnificent Arabs. Finest of all, in a green turban and 
scarlet mantle, rode the Sheik of Hasaneyn, who is a de- 
scendant of the prophet; but the most important, the 


Sheik el Bekree, who is a, sort of Egyptian Archbishop 
of Canterbury, and head of all the dervishes, came last, 
riding a white Arab with gold-embroidered housings, lie 
was a placid-looking old man, and wore a violet robe and 
an enormous red and green turban. 

This very reverend personage was closely followed by the 
chief of the carpet-makers' guild — a handsome man, sitting 
sidewise on a camel. 

Then happened another break in the procession — 
an eager pause — a gathering murmur. And then, 
riding a gaunt dromedary at a rapid trot, his fat 
sides shaking and his head rolling in a drunken way 
at every step, appeared a bloated, half-naked Silenus, 
with long fuzzy black locks and triple chin, and no 
other clothing than a pair of short white drawers and 
red slippers. A shiver of delight ran through the crowd 
at sight of this holy man — the famous Sheik of the 
Camel (Sheik el-Gemel), the " great, good priest" — the 
idol of the people. We afterward learned that this was 
his twentieth pilgrimage, and that he was supposed to fast, 
roll his head and wear nothing but this pair of loose drawers 
all the way to and from Mecca. 

But the crowning excitement was yet to come and the 
rapture witli which the crowd had greeted the Sheik el- 
Gemel was as nothing compared with their ecstasy when 
the mahmal, preceded by another group of mounted officers 
and borne by a gigantic camel, was seen coming through the 
gateway. The women held up their children; the men 
swarmed up the scaffoldings of the swings and behind 
the carriages. They screamed, they shouted, they waved 
handkerchiefs and turbans; they were beside themselves with 
excitement. Meanwhile the camel, as if conscious of the 
dignity of his position and the splendor of his trappings, 
came on slowly and ponderously with his nose in the air, 
and passed close before our horses' heads. We could not 
possibly have had better view of the mahmal; which is 
nothing but a sort of cage, or pagoda, of gilded tracery 
very richly decorated. In the days of the Memlooks, the 
mahmal represented the litter of the sultan, and went 
empty, like a royal carriage at the public funeral;* but we 

* " It is related that the Sultan Ez-Zahir Bey bars. King of Egypt, 
was the first who sent a mahmal with the caravan of pilgrims to 
Mecca, in the year of the flight 670 (a. d. 1272) or 675; but this 


were told that it now carried the tribute-carpet sent 
annually by the carpet-makers of Cairo to the tomb of the 

This closed the procession. As the camel passed, the 
crowd surged in, and everything like order was at an end. 
The carriages all made at once for the gate, so meeting the 
full tide of the outpouring crowd and causing unimagin- 
able confusion. Some stuck in the sand half-way — our 
own among the number; and all got into an inextricable 
block in the narrow part just inside the gate. Hereupon 
the drivers abused each other and the crowd got impatient, 
and some Europeans got pelted. 

Coming back, we met two or three more regiments. 
The men, both horse and foot, seemed fair average speci- 
mens, and creditably disciplined. They rode better than 
they marched, which was to be expected. The uniform is 
the same for cavalry and infantry throughout the service; 
the only difference being that the former wear short black 
riding-boots, and the latter, zouave gaiters of white linen. 
They are officered up to a certain point by Egyptians; but 
the commanding officers and the staff (among whom are 
enough colonels and generals to form an ordinary regiment) 
are chiefly Europeans and Americans. 

It had seemed, while the procession was passing, that 
the proportion of pilgrims was absurdly small when com- 
pared with the display of military; but this, which is 
called the departure of the caravan, is in truth only the 
procession of the sacred carpet from Cairo to the camp 
outside the walls; and the troops are present merely as 
part of the pageant. The true departure takes place two 
days later. The pilgrims then muster in great numbers; 
but the soldiery is reduced to a small escort. It was said 

custom, it is generally said, had its origin a few years before his 
accession to the throne. Shegered-Durr, a beautiul Turkish female 
slave who became the favorite wife of the Sultan Es-Saleh Negm-ed- 
Deen, and on the death of his son (with whom terminated the dynasty 
of the house of the Eiyoob) caused herself to be acknowledged as 
Queen of Egypt, performed the pilgrimage in a magnificent 'bodag,' 
or covered litter, borne by a camel; and for several successive years 
her empty ' hodag ' was sent with the caravan, merely for the sake 
of state. ' Hence,"succeeding princes of Egypt sent with each year's 
caravan of pilgrims a kind of 'hodag' (which received the name of 
mahmal) as an emblem of royalty." — "The Modern Egyptians," by E. 
W. Lane, chap, xxiv, London, 1860. 


that seven thousand souls went out this year from Cairo 
and its neighborhood. 

The procession took place on Thursday, the 21st clay of 
the Mohammedan month of Showwal, which was our 11th 
of December. The next day, Friday, being the Moham- 
medan Sabbath, we went to the convent of the Howling 
Dervishes, which lies beyond the walls in a quiet nook 
between the river side and the part known as old Cairo. 

We arrived a little after two, and passing through a 
court-yard shaded by a great sycamore were ushered into a 
large, square, whitewashed hall with a dome roof and a 
neatly matted floor. The place in its arrangements resem- 
bled none of the mosques that we had yet seen. There 
was, indeed, nothing to arrange — no pulpit, no holy niche, 
no lamps, no prayer-carpets; nothing but a row of cane- 
bottomed chairs at one end, some of which were already 
occupied by certain of our fellow-guests at Shepheard's 
Hotel. A party of some forty or fifty wild-looking 
dervishes were squatting in a circle at the opposite side of 
the hall, their outer kuftans and queer pyramidal hats 
lying in a heap close by. 

Being: accommodated with chairs among the other 
spectators, we waited for whatever might happen. More 
deverishes and more English dropped in from time to 
time. The new dervishes took off their caps and sat down 
among the rest, laughing and talking together at their 
ease. The English sat in a row, shy, uncomfortable, and 
silent; wondering whether they ought to behave as if they 
were in church, and mortally ashamed of their feet. For 
we had all been obliged to take off or cover our boots 
before going in, and those who had forgotten to bring 
slippers had their feet tied up in pocket handkerchiefs. 

A long time went by thus. At last, when the number 
of dervishes had increased to about seventy, and every one 
was tired of waiting, eight musicians came in — two trum- 
pets, two lutes, a cocoanut fiddle, a tambourine, and two 
drums. Then the dervishes, some of whom were old and 
white haired and some mere boys, formed themselves into 
a great circle, shoulder to shoulder; the band struck up a 
plaintive, discordant air; and a grave middle aged man, 
placing himself in the center of the ring and inclining his 
head at each repetition, began to recite the name of Allah. 

Softly at first, and one by one, the dervishes took up the 


chant: "Allah! Allah! Allah!" Their heads and their 
voices rose and fell in unison. The dome above gave back 
a hollow echo. There was something strange and solemn 
in the ceremony. 

Presently, however, the trumpets brayed louder — the 
voices grew hoarser — the heads bowed lower — the name of 
Allah rang out faster and faster, fiercer and fiercer. The 
leader, himself cool and collected, began sensibly accelerat- 
ing the time of the chorus; and it became evident that the 
performers were possessed by a growing frenzy. Soon the 
whole circle was madly rocking to and fro; the voices rose 
to a hoarse scream; and only the trumpets were audible 
above the din. Now and then a dervish would spring up 
convulsively some three or four feet above the heads of the 
others; but for the most part they stood firmly rooted to 
one spot — now bowing their heads almost to their feet — 
now flinging themselves so violently back that we, stand- 
ing behind, could see their faces foreshortened upside 
down; and this with such incredible rapidity that their 
long hair had scarcely time either to rise or fall, but 
remained as if suspended in mid-air. Still the frenzy 
mounted; still the pace quickened. Some shrieked — some 
groaned — some, unable to support themselves any longer, 
were held up in their places by the by-standers. All were 
mad for the time being. Our own heads seemed to be 
going round at last ; and more than one of the ladies 
present looked longingly toward the door. It was, in 
truth, a horrible sight, and needed only darkness and torch- 
light to be quite diabolical. 

At length, just as the fury was at its height and the 
very building seemed to be rocking to and fro above our 
heads, one poor wretch staggered out of the circle and fell, 
writhing and shrieking, close against our feet. At the 
same moment the leader clapped his hands ; the perform- 
ers, panting and exhausted, dropped into a sitting posture; 
and the first zikr, as it is called, came abruptly to an end. 
Some few, however, could not stop immediately, but kept 
on swaying and muttering to themselves; while the one in 
the fit having ceased to shriek, lay out stiff and straight, 
apparently in a state of coma. 

There was a murmur of relief and a simultaneous rising 
among the spectators. It was announced that another 
zikr, with a re-enforcement of fresh dervishes, would soon 


begin; but the Europeans had had enough of it, and few 
remained for the second performance. 

Going out we paused beside the poor fellow on the floor, 
and asked if nothing could be done for him. 

" He is struck by Mohammed/' said gravely an Egyptian 
official who wsis standing by. 

At that moment the leader came over, knelt down beside 
him, touched him lightly on the head and breast, and 
whispered something in his ear. The man was then quite 
rigid and white as death. We waited, however, and after 
a few more minutes saw him struggle back into a dazed, 
half-conscious state, when he was helped to his feet and 
led away by his friends. 

The court-yard as we came out was full of dervishes sit- 
ting on cane benches in the shade and sipping coffee. 
The green leaves rustled overhead with glimpses of in- 
tensely blue sky between ; and brilliant patches of sun- 
shine flickered down upon groups of wild-looking, half- 
savage figures in party-colored garments. It. was one of 
those ready-made subjects that the sketcher passes by with 
a sigh, but which live in his memory forever. 

From hence, being within a few minutes' drive of old 
Cairo, we went on as far as the Mosque of Amr — an unin- 
teresting ruin stands alone among the rubbish-mounds of 
the first Mohammedan capital of Egypt. It is constructed 
on the plan of a single quadrangle two hundred and 
twenty-five feet square, surrounded by a covered col- 
onnade one range of pillars in depth on the west 
(which is the side of the entrance); four on the north; 
three on the south; and six on the east, which is the 
place of prayer, and contains three holy niches and 
the pulpit. The columns, two hundred and forty-five 
in number, have been brought from earlier Roman 
and Byzantine buildings. They are of various mar- 
bles and have all kinds of capitals. Some being 
originally too short, have been stilted on dispropor- 
tionately high bases; and in one instance the neces- 
sary height has been obtained by adding a second capital on 
the top of the first. "We observed one column of that rare 
black and white speckled marble of which there is a speci- 
men in the pulpit of St. Mark's in Venice; and one of the 
holy niches contains some fragments of Byzantine mosaics. 
But the whole building seems to have been put together in 


a barbarous way, and would appear to owe its present state 
of dilapidation more to bad workmanship than to time. 
Many of the pillars, especially on tbe western side, are 
fallen and broken; the octagonal fountain in the center is a 
roofless ruin; and the little minaret at the southeast cor- 
ner is no longer safe. 

Apart, however, from its poverty of design and detail, 
the Mosque of Arar is interesting as a point of departure 
in the history of Saracenic architecture. It was built by 
Amr Ebn el-As, the Arab conqueror of Egypt, in the 
twenty-first year of the hegira (a.d. 642), just ten years 
after the death of Mohammed; and it is the earliest Sara- 
cenic edifice in Egypt. We were glad, therefore, to have 
seen it for this reason, if for no other. But it is a barren, 
dreary place; and the glare reflected from all sides of the 
quadrangle was so intense that we were thankful to get 
away into the narrow streets beside the river. 

Here we presently fell in with a wedding procession con- 
sisting of a crowd of men, a band, and some three or four 
hired carriages full of veiled women, one of whom was pointed 
out as the bride. The bridegroom walked in the midst of 
the men, who seemed to be teasing him, drumming round 
him, and opposing his progress; while high above the 
laughter, the shouting, the jingle of tambourines and the 
thrumming of darabukkehs, was heard the shrill squeal of 
some instrument that sounded exactly like a bagpipe. 

It was a brilliant afternoon, and we ended our day's 
work, I remember, with a drive on the Shubra road and a 
glance at the gardens of the khedive's summer palace. 
The Shubra road is the Champs Elysees of Cairo, and is 
thronged every day from four to half-past six. Here little 
sheds of roadside cafes alternate with smart modern villas; 
ragged fellaheen on jaded donkeys trot side by side with 
elegant attaches on high-stepping Arabs; while tourists in 
hired carriages, Jew bankers in unexceptionable phaetons, 
veiled hareems in London built broughams, Italian shop- 
keepers in preposterously fashionable toilets, grave 
sheiks on magnificent Cairo asses, officers in frogged and 
braided frocks, and English girls in tall hats and close-fit- 
ting habits, followed by the inevitable little solemn-looking 
English groom, pass and repass, precede and follow each 
other, in one changing, restless, heterogeneous stream, 
the like of which is to be seen in no other capital in the 


world. The sons of the khedive drive here daily, always 
in separate carriages and preceded by four saises and four 
guards. They are of all ages and sizes, from the heredi- 
tary prince, a pale, gentlemanly looking young man of 
four or five and twenty, down to one tiny, imperious atom 
of about six, who is dressed like a little man, and is con- 
stantly leaning out of the carriage window and shrilly 
abusing his coachman.* 

Apart however, from those who frequent it, the Shubra 
road is a really fine drive, broad, level, raised some six or 
eight feet above the cultivated plain, closely planted on both 
sides with acacias and sycamore fig trees, and reaching 
straight away for four miles out of Cairo, counting from 
the railway terminus to the summer palace. The carriage- 
way is about as wide as the road across Hyde Park which 
connects Bayswater with Kensington; and toward the Shu- 
bra end, it runs close beside the Nile. "Many of the syca- 
mores are of great size and quite patriarchal girth. Their 
branches meet overhead nearly all the way, weaving a de- 
licious shade and making a cool green tunnel of the long 

We did not stay long in the khedive's gardens, for it 
was already getting late when we reached the gates; but 
we went far enough to see that they were tolerably well 
kept, not over formal and laid out with a view to masses 
of foliage, shady paths and spaces of turf inlaid with 
flower-beds, after the style of the famous Sarntheim and 
Moser gardens at Botzen in the Tyrol. Here are sont 
trees {Acacia Kilotica) of unusual size, powdered all over 
with little feathery tufts of yellow blossom ; orange and 
lemon trees in abundance; heaps of little green limes; 
bananas bearing heavy pendent bunches of ripe fruit; Mind- 
ing thickets of pomegranates, oleanders and salvias; and 
great beds and banks and trellised walks of roses. Among 
these, however, I observed none of the rarer varieties. As 
for the pointsettia, it grows in Egypt to a height of twenty 
feet, and bears blossoms of such size and color as we in 
England can form no idea of. We saw large trees of it 
both here and at Alexandria that seemed as if bending be- 
neath a mantle of crimson stars, some of which cannot 
have measured less than twenty-two inches in diameter. 

* The hereditary prince, it need scarcely be said, is the present 
khedive, Tewfik Pasha. [Note to second edition.] 


A large Italian fountain, in a rococo style, is the great 
sight of the place. We caught a glimpse of it through the 
trees, and surprised the gardener who was showing us over 
by declining to inspect it more nearly. He could not un- 
derstand why we preferred to give our time to the shrubs 
and flower-beds. 

Driving back presently toward Cairo with a big handful 
of roses apiece, we saw the sun going down in an aureole 
of fleecy pink and golden clouds, the Nile flowing by like a 
stream of liquid light, and a little fleet of sailing boats 
going up to Boulak before a paff of north wind that had 
sprung up as the sun neared the horizon. That puff of 
north wind, those gliding sails, had a keen interest for us 
now and touched us nearly; because — I have delayed this 
momentous revelation till the last moment — because we 
were to start to-morrow! 

And this is why I have been able, in the midst of so 
much that was new and bewildering, to remember quite 
circumstantially the dates and all the events connected with 
these last two days. They were to be our last two days in 
Cairo; and to morrow morning, Saturday, the 13th of De- 
cember, we were to go on board a certain dahabeeyah now 
lying off the iron bridge at Boulak, therein to begin that 
strange aquatic life to which we had been looking forward 
with so many hopes and fears, and toward which we 
had been steering through so many preliminary difficulties. 

But the difficulties were all over now and everything 
was settled; though not in the way we had at first intended. 
For, in place of a small boat, we had secured one of the 
largest on the river; and instead of going alone we had 
decided to throw in our lot with that of three other 
travelers. One of these three was already known to the 
writer. The other two, friends of the first, were on their 
way out from Europe and were not expected in Cairo for 
another week. We knew nothing of them but their 

Meanwhile L — — and the writer, assuming sole posses- 
sion of the dahabeeyah, were about to start ten days in ad- 
vance; it being their intention to push on as far as Khoda 
(the ultimate point then reached by the Nile railway), and 
there to await the arrival of the rest of the party. Xow 
Rhoda (more correctly Roda) is just one hundred and 
eighty miles south of Cairo, and we calculated upon seeing 


the Sakkdrah pyramids, the Turra quarries, the tombs of 
Beni Hassan, and the famous grotto of the Colossus on 
the Sledge, before our fellow-travelers should be clue. 

" It depends on the wind, you know," said our dragoman, 
with a lugubrious smile. 

We knew that it depended on the wind; but what then? 
In Egypt the wind is supposed always to blow from the 
north at this time of the year, and we had ten good days 
at our disposal. The observation was clearly irrelevant. 




A rapid raid into some of the nearest shops for things 
remembered at the last moment — a breathless gathering up 
of innumerable parcels — a few hurried farewells on the 
steps of the hotel — and away we rattle as fast as a pair of 
raw-boned grays can carry us. For this morning every 
moment is of value. We are already late ; we expect 
visitors to luncheon on board at midday; and we are to 
weigh anchor at two p. m. Hence our anxiety to reach 
Boulak before the bridge is opened, that we may drive 
across to the western bank, against which our dahabeeyah 
lies moored. Hence, also, our mortification when we arrive 
just in time to see the bridge swing apart and the first 
tall mast glide through. 

Presently, however, when those on the look-out have 
observed our signals of distress, a smart-looking sandal, or 
jolly-boat, decked with gay rugs and cushions, manned by 
five smiling Arabs, and flying a bright little new union 
jack, comes swiftly threading its way in and out among 
the lumbering barges now crowding through the bridge. 
In a few more minutes we are afloat. For this is our 
sandal and these are five of our crew; and of the three 
dahabeeyahs moored over yonder in the shade of the palms 
the biggest by far, and the trimmest, is our dear, memo- 
rable Philas. 

Close behind the Pliilae lies the Bagstones, a neat 
little dahabeeyah in the occupation of two English ladies 
who chanced to cross with us in the Simla from Brin- 
disi, and of whom we have seen so much ever since that 
we regard them by this time as quite old friends in a 
strange land. I will call them the M. B.'s. The other 
boat, lying off a few yards ahead, carries the tri-color, and 
is chartered by a party of French gentlemen. All three 
are to sail to-day. 


And now we are on board and have shaken hands with 
the captain and are as busy as bees; for there are cabins to 
put in order, flowers to arrange, and a hundred little 
things to be seen to before the guests arrive. It is wonder- 
ful, however, what a few books and roses, an open piano, 
and a sketch or two will do. In a few minutes the com- 
fortless hired look has vanished, and long enough before 
the first comers are announced the Phila? wears an aspect 
as cozy and home-like as if she had been occupied for a 

As for the luncheon, it certainly surprised the givers of 
the entertainment quite as much as it must have surprised 
their guests. Being, no doubt, a pre-arranged display of 
professional pride on the part of dragoman and cook, it 
was more like an excessive Christmas dinner than a modest 
midday meal. We sat through it unflinchingly, however, 
for about an hour and three quarters, when a startling dis- 
charge of firearms sent us all running upon deck and 
created a wholesome diversion in our favor. It was the 
French boat signaling her departure, shaking out her big 
sail, and going off triumphantly. 

I fear that we of the Bagstones and Philas — being mere 
mortals and Englishwomen — could not help feeling just a 
little spiteful when we found the tri-color had started first; 
but then it was a consolation to know that the Frenchmen 
were going only to Assuan. Such is the esprit (hi Nil. 
The people in dahabeeyahs despise Cook's tourists; those 
who are bound for the second cataract look down with 
lofty compassion upon those whose ambition extends only 
to the first; and travelers who engage their boat by the 
month hold their heads a trifle higher than those who con- 
tract for the trip. We, who were going as far as we liked 
and for as long as we liked, could afford to be mag- 
nanimous. So we forgave the Frenchmen, went down 
again to the saloon, and had coffee and music. 

It w T as nearly three o'clock when our Cairo visitors wished 
us "bon voyage "and good-by. Then the M. B.'s, who, 
with their nephew, had been of the party, went back to 
their own boat ; and both captains prepared to sail at a 
given signal. For the M. B.'s had entered into a solemn 
convention to start with us, moor with us, and keep with 
us, if practicable, all the way up the river. It is pleasant 
now to remember that this sociable compact, instead of 


falling through as such compacts are wont to do, was quite 
literally carried out as far as Aboo Simbel ; that is to say, 
during a period of seven weeks' hard going and for a dis- 
tance of upward of eight hundred miles. 

At last all is ready. The awning that has all day roofed 
in the upper deck is taken down ; the captain stands at 
the head of the steps; the steersman is at the helm; the 
dragoman has loaded his musket. Is the Bagstones ready? 
We wave a handkerchief of inquiry — the signal is answered 
— the mooring ropes are loosened — the sailors pole the boat 
off from the bank — bang go the guns, six from the Philaj 
and six from the Bagstones, and away we go, our huge sail 
filling as it takes the wind ! 

Happy are the Xile travelers who start thus with a fair 
breeze on a brilliant afternoon. The good boat cleaves her 
way swiftly and steadily. "Water-side palaces and gardens 
glide by and are left behind. The domes and minarets of 
Cairo drop quickly out of sight. The mosque of the cita- 
del and the ruined fort that looks down upon it from the 
mountain ridge above diminish in the distance. The 
pyramids stand up sharp and clear. 

We sit on the high upper deck, which is furnished with 
lounge-chairs, tables and foreign rugs, like a drawing- 
room in the open air, and enjoy the prospect at our ease. 
The valley is wide here and the banks are flat, showing a 
steep verge of crumbling alluvial mud next the river. 
Long belts of palm groves, tracts of young corn only an 
inch or two above the surface, and clusters of mud huts, 
relieved now and then by a little w T hitew r ashed cupola or a 
stumpy minaret, succeed each other on both sides of the 
river, while the horizon is bounded to right and left by 
long ranges of yellow limestone mountains, in the folds of 
which sleep inexpressibly tender shadows of pale violet 
and blue. 

Thus the miles glide away, and by and by we approach 
Turra — a large, new-looking mud village, and the first of 
any extent that we have yet seen. Some of the houses are 
whitewashed; a few have glass windows, and many seem to 
be unfinished. A space of wdiite, stony, glaring plain sep- 
arates the village from the quarried mountains beyond, the 
flanks of which show all gashed and hewn away. One 
great cliff seems to have been cut sheer off for a distance of 
perhaps half a mile. Where the cuttings are fresh the 


limestone comes out dazzling white and the long slopes of 
debris heaped against the foot of the cliffs glisten like 
snow-drifts in the sun. Yet the outer surface of the 
mountains is orange-tawny, like the pyramids. As for the 
piles of rough hewn blocks that lie ranged along the bank 
ready for transport, they look like salt rather than stone. 
Here lies moored a whole fleet of cargo boats, laden and 
lading ; and along the tramway that extends from the 
river side to the quarries we see long trains of mule-carts 
coming and going. 

For all the new buildings in Cairo, the khedive's pal- 
aces, the public offices, the smart modern villas, the glar- 
ing new streets, the theaters and foot pavements and cafes, 
all come from these mountains— -just as the pyramids did 
more than six thousand years ago. There are hieroglyphed 
tablets and sculptured grottoes to be seen in the most 
ancient part of the quarries, if one were inclined to stop 
for them at this early stage of the journey; and Champol- 
lion tells of two magnificent outlines done in red ink upon 
the living rock by some master hand of Pharaonic times, 
the cutting of which was never even begun. A substantial 
new barrack and an esplanade planted with sycamore figs 
bring the straggling village to an end. 

And now, as the afternoon wanes, we draw near to a 
dense, wide-spreading forest of stately date-palms on the 
western bank, knowing that beyond them, though unseen, 
lie the mounds of Memphis and all the wonders of Sak- 
karah. Then the sun goes down behind the Libyan hills; 
and the palms stand out black and bronzed against a golden 
sky ; and the pyramids, left far behind, look gray and 
ghostly in the distance. 

Presently, when it is quite dusk and the stars are out, we 
moor for the night at Bedreshayn, which is the nearest 
point for visiting Sakkarah. There is a railway station 
here, and also a considerable village, both lying back about 
half a mile from the river; and the distance from Cairo, 
which is reckoned at fifteen miles by the line, is probably 
about eighteen by water. 

Such was our first day on the Nile. And perhaps, 
before going farther on our way, I ought to describe the 
Phila? and introduce Rei's Hassan and his crew. 

A dahabeeyah, at the first glance, is more like a civic or 
an Oxford University barge, than anything in the shape of 


a boat with which we in England are familiar. It is 
shallow and flat-bottomed, and is adapted for either sailing 
or rowing. It carries two masts; a big one near the prow 
and a smaller one at the stern. The cabins are on deck 
and occupy the after-part of the vessel; and the roof of the 
cabins forms the raised deck, or open-air drawing-room 
already mentioned. This upper deck is reached from the 
lower deck by two little flights of steps, and is the exclu- 
sive territory of the passengers. The lower deck is the 
territory of the crew. A dahabeeyah is, in fact, not very 
nnlike the Noah's ark of our childhood, with this differ- 
ence — the habitable part, instead of occupying the middle 
of the vessel, is all at one end, top heavy and many-win- 
dowed; while the fore-deck is not more than six feet above 
the level of the water. The hold, however, is under the 
lower deck, and so counterbalances the weight at the other 
end. Not to multiply comparisons unnecessarily, I may 
say that a large dahabeeyah reminds one of old pictures of 
the Bucentaur; especially when the men are at their oars. 

The kitchen — which is a mere shed like a Dutch oven in 
shape, and contains only a charcoal stove and a row of 
stew-pans — stands between the big mast and the prow, 
removed as far as possible from the passengers' cabins. In 
this position the cook is protected from a favorable wind 
by his shed ; but in the case of a contrary wind he is 
screened by an awning. How, under even the most favor- 
able circumstances, these men can serve up the elaborate 
dinners which are the pride of a Nile cook's heart, is suf- 
ficiently wonderful; but how they achieve the same results 
when wind-storms and sand-storms are blowing and every 
breath is laden with the fine grit of the desert, is little 
short of miraculous. 

Thus far, all dahabeeyahs are alike. The cabin arrange- 
ments differ, however, according to the size of the boat ; 
and it must be remembered that in describing the Philas I 
describe a dahabeeyah of the largest build — her total 
length from stem to stern being just one hundred feet, 
and the width of her upper deck at the broadest j)art little 
short of twenty. 

Our floor being on a somewhat lower level than the 
men's deck, we went down three steps to the entrance 
door, on each side of which was an external cupboard, one 
serving as a store- room and the other as a pantry. This 


door led into a passage out of which opened four sleeping- 
cabins, two on each side. These cabins measured about 
eight feet in length by four and a half in width, and con- 
tained a bed, a chair, a fixed washing stand, a looking- 
glass against the wall, a shelf, a row of hooks, and under 
each bed two large drawers for clothes. At the end of 
this little passage another door opened into the dining- 
saloon — a spacious, cheerful room, some twent} r -three or 
twenty-four feet long, situated in the widest part of the 
boat, and lighted by four windows on each side and a sky- 
light. The paneled walls and ceiling were painted in 
white picked out with gold ; a cushioned divan covered 
with a smart woolen reps ran along each side ; and a gay 
Brussels carpet adorned the floor. The diniug-table stood 
in the center of the room, and there was ample space for a 
piano, two little book-cases, and several chairs. The win- 
dow-curtains and portieres were of the same reps as the 
divan, the prevailing colors being scarlet and orange. Add 
a couple of mirrors in gilt frames; a vase of flowers on the 
table (for we were rarely without flowers of some sort, 
even in Nubia, where our daily bouquet had to be made 
with a few bean blossoms and castor-oil berries); plenty of 
books; the gentlemen's guns and sticks in one corner; and 
the hats of all the party hanging in the spaces between the 
windows, and it will be easy to realize the homely, habitable 
look of our general sitting-room. 

Another door and passage opening from the upper end 
of the saloon led to three more sleeping-rooms, two of 
which were single and one double; a bath-room; a tiny 
back staircase leading to the upper deck ; and the stern- 
cabin saloon. This last, following the form of the stern, 
was semicircular, lighted by eight windows, and sur- 
rounded by a divan. Under this, as under the saloon 
divans, there ran a row of deep drawers, which, being 
fairly divided, held our clothes, wine, and books. The 
entire length of the dahabeeyah being exactly one hun- 
dred feet, I take the cabin part to have occupied about 
fifty-six or fifty-seven feet (that is to say, about six or 
seven feet over the exact half), and the lower deck to have 
measured the remaining forty-three feet. But these 
dimensions, being given from memory, are approximate. 

For the crew there was no sleeping accommodation what- 
ever, unless they chose to creep into the hold among the 


luggage and packing-cases. But this they never did. 
They just rolled themselves up at night, heads and all, in 
rough brown blankets, and lay about the lower deck like 

The reis, or captain, the steersman, and twelve sailors, 
the dragoman, head cook, assistant cook, two waiters, and 
the boy who cooked for the crew, completed our equip- 
ment. Eeis Hassan — short, stern-looking, authoritative— 
was a Cairo Arab. The dragoman, Elias Talhamy, w r as a 
Syrian of Beyrout. The two waiters, Michael and Habib, 
and the head cook (a wizened old cordon Men named 
Hassan Bedawee) were also Syrians. The steersman and 
five of the sailors were from Thebes; four belonged to a 
place near Philae; one came from a village opposite Kom 
Ombo ; one from Cairo, and two were Nubians from 
Assuan. They were of all shades, from yellowish bronze 
to a hue not far removed from black; and though, at the 
first mention of it, nothing more incongruous can well be 
imagined than a sailor in petticoats and a turban, yet 
these men in their loose blue gowns, bare feet, and white 
muslin turbans, looked not only picturesque but dressed 
exactly as they should be. They were for the most part 
fine young men, slender but powerful, square in the 
shoulders, like the ancient Egyptian statues, with the same 
slight legs and long, flat feet. More docile, active, good- 
tempered, friendly fellows never pulled an oar. Simple 
and trustful as children, frugal as anchorites, they worked 
cheerfully from sunrise to sunset, sometimes towing the 
dahabeeyah on a rope all day long, like barge-horses; some- 
times punting for hours, which is the hardest work of all; 
yet always singing at their task, always smiling when 
spoken to, and made as happy as princes with a handful of 
coarse Egyptian tobacco, or a bundle of fresh sugar-canes 
bought for a few pence by the river side. We soon came 
to know them all by name — Mehemet Ali, Salarne, 
Khalifeh, Riskali, Hassan, Miisa, and so on; and as none 
of us ever went on shore without one or two of them to 
act as guards and attendants, and as the poor fellows were 
constantly getting bruised hands or feet and coming to 
the upper deck to be doctored, a feeling of genuine friend- 
liness was speedily established between us. 

The ordinary pay of a Nile sailor is two pounds a month, 
with an additional allowance of about three and sixpence a 


month for flour. Broad is their staple food, and they 
make it themselves at certain places along the river where 
there are large public ovens for the purpose. This bread, 
which is cut up in slices and dried in the sun, is as brown 
as gingerbread and as hard as biscuit. They eat it soaked 
in hot water, flavored with oil, pepper and salt, and 
stirred in with boiled lentils till the whole becomes of the 
color, flavor, and consistence of thick pea soup. Except 
on grand occasions, such as Christmas day or the anniver- 
sary of the flight of the prophet, when the passengers 
treat them to a sheep, this mess of bread and lentils, with 
a little coffee twice a day,, and now and then a handful of 
dates, constitutes their only food throughout the journey. 

The Nile season is the Nile sailors' harvest time. When 
the warm weather sets in and the travelers migrate with 
the swallows, these poor fellows disperse in all directions; 
some to seek a living as porters in Cairo; others to their 
homes in Middle and Upper Egypt, where, for about four- 
pence a day, they take hire as laborers, or work at Shaduf 
irrigation till the Nile again overspreads the land. The 
Shaduf work is hard, and a man has to keep on for nine 
hours out of every twenty-four ; but he prefers it, for the 
most part, to employment in the government sugar fac- 
tories, where the wages average at about the same rate, but 
are paid in bread, which, being doled out by unscrupulous 
inferiors, is too often of light weight and bad quality. The 
sailors who succeed in getting a berth on board a cargo- 
boat for the summer are the most fortunate. 

Our captain, pilot, and crew were all Mohammedans. 
The cook and his assistant were Syrian Mohammedans. The 
dragoman and waiters were Christians of the Syrian Latin 
church. Only one out of the fifteen natives could write or 
read; and that one was a sailor named Egendi, who acted 
as a sort of second mate. He used sometimes to write let- 
ters for the others, holding a scrap of tumbled paper across 
the palm of his left hand, and scrawling rude Arabic char- 
acters with a reed pen of his own making. This Egendi, 
though perhaps the least interesting of the crew, was a 
man of many accomplishments — an excellent comic actor, 
a bit of a shoemaker, and a first-rate barber. More than 
once, when we happened to be stationed far from any vil- 
lage, he shaved his messmates all round and turned them 
out with heads as smooth as billiard balls. 


There are, of course, good and bad Mohammedans as 
there are good and bad churchmen of every denomination; 
and we had both sorts on board. Some of the men were 
very devout, never failing to perform their ablutions and 
say their prayers at sunrise and sunset. Others never 
dreamed of doing so. Some would not touch wine — had 
never tasted it in their lives, and would have suffered any 
extremity rather than break the law of their prophet. 
Others had a nice taste in clarets and a delicate apprecia- 
tion of the respective merits of rum or whisky punch. It 
is, however,, only fair to add that we never gave them 
these things except on special occasions, as on Christmas 
day, or when they had been wading in the river, or in 
some other way undergoing extra fatigue in our service. 
Nor do I believe there was a man on board who would 
have spent a para of his scanty earnings on any drink 
stronger than coffee. Coffee and tobacco are, indeed, the 
only luxuries in which the Egyptian peasant indulges; 
and our poor fellows were never more grateful than when 
we distributed among them a few pounds of cheap native 
tobacco. This abominable mixture sells in the bazaars at 
sixpence the pound,, the plant from which it is gathered 
being raised from inferior seed in a soil chemically unsuit- 
able, because wholly devoid of potash. 

Also it is systematically spoiled in the growing. Instead 
of being nipped off when green and dried in the shade, 
the leaves are allowed to wither on the stalk before they 
are gathered. The result is a kind of rank hay without 
strength or flavor, which is smoked by only the very poor- 
est class, and carefully avoided by all who can afford to buy 
Turkish or Syrian tobacco. 

Twice a day, after their midday and evening meals, our 
sailors were wont to sit in a circle and solemnly smoke a 
certain big pipe of the kind known as a hubble-bubble. 
This hubble-bubble (which was of most primitive make 
and consisted of a cocoanut and two sugar-canes) was 
common property; and, being filled by the captain, went 
round from hand to hand, from mouth to mouth, while it 

They smoked cigarettes at other times, and seldom went 
on shore without a tobacco-pouch and a tiny book of 
cigarette-papers. Fancy a bare-legged Arab making cigar- 
ettes ! No Frenchman, however, could twist them up 
more deftly or smoke them w:th a better grace. 


A Nile sailor's service expires with the season, so that he 
is generally a landsman for about half the year; but the 
captain's appointment is permanent. He is expected to 
live in Cairo, and is responsible for his dahabeeyah during 
the summer months, while it lies up at Boulak. Rei's 
Hassan had a wife and a comfortable little home on the 
outskirts of old Cairo, and was looked upon as a well-to- 
do personage among his fellows. He received four pounds 
a month all the year round from the owner of the Philae — 
a magnificent broad-shouldered Arab of about six foot 
nine, with a delightful smile, the manners of a gentleman, 
and the rapacity of a Shylock. 

Our men treated us to a concert that first night, as we 
lay moored under the bank near Bedreshayn. Being told 
that it was customary to provide musical instruments, we 
had given them leave to buy a tar and darabukkeh before 
starting. The tar, or tambourine, was pretty enough, being 
made of rosewood inlaid with mother-of-pearl; but a more 
barbarous affair than the darabukkeh was surely never con- 
structed. This primitive drum is about a foot and a half 
in length, funnel-shaped, molded of sun-dried clay like 
the kullehs, and covered over the top with strained parch- 
ment. It is held under the left arm and played like atom- 
torn with the fingers of the right hand; and it weighs 
about four pounds. We would willingly have added a 
double pipe or a cocoanut fiddle* to the strength of the band 
but none of our men could play them. The tar and dara- 
bukkeh, however, answered the purpose well enough, and 
were perhaps better suited to their strange singing than 
more tuneful instruments. 

We had just finished dinner when they began. First 
came a prolonged wail that swelled, and sank, and swelled 
again, and at last died away. This was the principal singer 
leading off with the keynote. The next followed suit on 
the third of the key ; and finally all united in one long, 
shrill, descending cry, like a yawn, or a howl, or a combi- 
nation of both. This, twice repeated, preluded their per- 
formance and worked them up, apparently, to the necessary 
pitch of musical enthusiasm. The primo tenore then led 
off in a quavering roulade, at the end of which he slid into 
a melancholy chant, to which the rest sang chorus. At the 

* Arabic — Kerne ngeli. 


close of each verse they yawned and howled again; while the 
singer, carried away by his emotions, broke out every now 
and then into a repetition of the same amazing and utterly 
indescribable vocal wriggle with which he had begun. When- 
ever he did this, the rest held their breath in respectful 
admiration and uttered an approving "Ah ! ' — which is 
here the customary expression of applause. 

We thought their music horrible that first night, I 
remember; though we ended, as I believe most travelers 
do, by liking it. We, however, paid them the compliment 
of going upon deck and listening to their performance. 
As a night-scene, nothing could be more picturesque than 
this group of turbaned Arabs sitting in a circle, cross- 
legged, with a lantern in their midst. The singer quavered; 
the musicians thrummed; the rest softly clapped their 
hands to time and waited their turn to chime in with the 
chorus. Meanwhile the lantern lit up their swarthy faces 
and their glittering teeth. The great mast towered up 
into the darkness. The river gleamed below. The stars 
shone overhead. We felt we were indeed strangers in a 
strange land. 




HAVING arrived at Bedreshayn after dark and there 
moored for the night, we were roused early next morning 
by the furious squabbling and chattering of some fifty or 
sixty men and boys, who, with a score or two of little 
rough-coated, depressed-looking donkeys, were assembled 
on the high bank above. Seen thus against the sky, their 
tattered garments fluttering in the wind, their brown arms 
and legs in frantic movement, they looked like a troojo of 
mad monkeys let loose. Every moment the uproar grew 
shriller. Every moment more men, more boys, more 
donkeys appeared upon the scene. It was as if some 
new Cadmus had been sowing boys and donkeys broadcast 
and they had all come up at once for our benefit. 

Then it appeared that Talhamy, knowing how eight 
donkeys would be wanted for our united forces, had sent 
up to the village for twenty-five, intending, perhaps with 
more wisdom than justice, to select the best and dismiss 
the others. The result was overwhelming. Misled by 
the magnitude of the order and concluding that Cook's 
party had arrived, every man, boy and donkey in Bedre- 
shayn and the neighboring village of Mitrahineh had 
turned out in hot haste and rushed down to the river; so 
that by the time breakfast was over there were steeds 
enough in readiness for all the English in Cairo. I pass 
over the tumult that ensued when our party at last 
mounted the eight likeliest beasts and rode away, leaving 
the indignant multitude to disperse at leisure. 

And now our way lies over a dusty flat, across the rail- 
way line, past the long straggling village, and through the 
famous plantations known as the Palms of Memphis. There 
is a crowd of patient-looking fellaheen at the little white- 
washed station, waiting for the train, and the usual rabble 
of clamorous water, bread and fruit sellers. Bedreshayn, 


though a collection of mere mud-hovels, looks pretty, nest- 
ling in the midst of stately date-palms. Square pigeon 
towers, imbedded round the top with layers of wide- 
mouthed pots and stuck with rows of leafless acacia boughs 
like ragged banner poles, stand up at intervals among the 
huts. The pigeons go in and out of the pots, or sit preen- 
ing their feathers on the branches. The dogs dasli out 
and bark madly at us as we go by. The little brown chil- 
dren pursue us with cries of " Bakhshish!" The potter, 
laying out rows of soft, gray, freshly molded clay bowls 
and kullehs* to bake in the sun, stops, open-mouthed, 
and stares as if he had never seen a European till this mo- 
ment. His young wife snatches up her baby and pulls her 
veil more closely over her face, fearing the evil eye. 

The village being left behind, we ride on through one 
long palm-grove after another; now skirting the borders of 
a large sheet of tranquil back-water; now catching a 
glimpse of the far-off pyramids of Ghizeh, now passing 
between the huge irregular mounds of crumbled clay which 
mark the site of Memphis. Next beyond these we come 
out upon a high embanked road some twenty feet above 
the plain, which here spreads out like a wide lake and 
spends its last dark-brown alluvial wave against the 
yellow rocks which define the edge of the desert. High on 
this barren plateau, seen for the first timein one unbroken 
panoramic line, there stand a solemn company of pyramids; 
those of Sakkarah straight before us, those of Dahshur to 
the left, those of Abusir to the right and the great pyra- 
mids of Ghizeh always in the remotest distance. 

It might be thought that there would be some monotony 
in such a scene and but little beauty. On the contrary, 
however, there is beauty of a most subtle and exquisite 
kind — transcendent beauty of color and atmosphere and 
sentiment; and no monotony either in the landscape or in 
the forms of the pyramids. One of these which we are 
now approaching is built in a succession of platforms grad- 
ually decreasing toward the top. Another down yonder at 
Dahshur curves outward at the angles, half dome, half 
pyramid, like the roof of the Palais de Justice, in Paris. 

* The goolah, or kulleh, is a porous water- jar of sun-dried Nile 
mud. These jars are made of all sizes and in a variety of remark- 
ably graceful forms, and cost from about one farthing to twopence 


No two are of precisely the same size, or built at precisely 
the same angle; and each cluster differs somehow in the 

Then again the coloring — coloring not to be matched 
with any pigments yet invented. The Libyan rocks, like 
rusty gold — the paler hue of the driven sand-slopes — the 
warm maize of the nearer pyramids which, seen from this 
distance, takes a tender tint of rose, like the red bloom on an 
apricot — the delicate tone of these objects against the sky 
— the infinite gradations of that sky, soft and pearly toward 
the horizon, hlne and burning toward the zenith — the 
opalescent shadows, pale blue and violet and greenish- 
gray, that nestle in the hollows of the rock and the curves 
of the sand-drifts — all this is beautiful in a way impossi- 
ble to describe, and, alas! impossible to copy. Nor does 
the lake-like plain with its palm-groves and corn-flats form 
too tame a foreground. It is exactly what is wanted to 
relieve that glowing distance. 

And now, as we follow the zigzags of the road, the new 
pyramids grow gradually larger; the sun mounts higher; 
the heat increases. We meet a train of camels, buffaloes, 
shaggy brown sheep, men, women, and children of all ages. 
The camels are laden with bedding, rugs, mats, and crates 
of poultry, and carry, besides, two women with babies and 
one very old man. The younger men drive the tired 
beasts. The rest follow behind. The dust rises after 
them in a cloud. It is evidently the migration of a family 
of three, if not four generations. One cannot help being 
struck by the patriarchal simplicity of the incident. Just 
thus, with flocks and herds and all his clan, went Abraham 
into the land of Canaan close upon four thousand years 
ago; and one at least of these Sakkarah pyramids was even 
then the oldest building in the world. 

It is a touching and picturesque procession — much more 
picturesque than ours and much more numerous; not- 
withstanding that our united forces, including donkey 
boys, porters and miscellaneous hangers-on, number nearer 
thirty than twenty persons. For there are the M. B.'s and 

their nephew, and L and the writer, and L 's maid, 

and Talhamy, all on donkeys; and then there are the 
owners of the donkeys, also on donkeys; and then every 
donkey has a boy; and every boy has a donkey; and every 
donkey-boy's donkey has an inferior boy in attendance. 


Our style of dress, too, however convenient, is not exactly 
in harmony with the surrounding scenery; and one cannot 
but feel, as these draped and dusty pilgrims pass us on the 
road, that we cut a sorroy figure with our hideous palm- 
leaf hats, green veils, and white umbrellas. 

But the must amazing and incongruous personage in our 
whole procession is unquestionably George. Now George 
is an English north-country groom whom the M. B.'s 
have brought out from the wilds of Lancashire, partly 
because he is a good shot and may be useful to "Master 
Alfred " after birds and crocodiles, and partly from a 
well-founded belief in his general abilities. And George, 
who is a fellow of infinite jest and infinite resource, takes 
to eastern life as a duckling to the water. He picks up 
Arabic as if it were his mother tongue. He skins birds 
like a practiced taxidermist. He can even wash and iron 
on occasion. He is, in short, groom, footman, house-maid, 
laundry-maid, stroke-oar, gamekeeper and general factotum 
all in one. And, besides all this, he is gifted with a comic 
gravity of countenance that no surprises and no disasters 
can upset for a moment. To see this worthy anachronism 
cantering along in his groom's coat and gaiters, livery- 
buttons, spotted neckcloth, tall hat, and all the rest of it; 
his long legs dangling within an inch of the ground on 
either side of the most diminutive of donkeys; his double- 
barreled fowling-piece under his arm, and that imper- 
turbable look in his face, one would have sworn that he 
and Egypt were friends of old, and that he had been 
brought up on pyramids from his earliest childhood. 

It is a long and shelterless ride from the palms to the 
desert; but we come to the end of it at last, mounting just 
such another sand-slope as that which leads up from the 
Ghizeh road to the foot of the great pyramid. The edge 
of the plateau here rises abruptly from the plain in one 
long range of low perdendicular cliffs pierced with dark 
mouths of rock-cut sepulchers, while the sand-slope by 
which we are climbing pours down through a breach in the 
rock, as an Alpine snow-drift flows through a mountain 
gap from the ice-level above. 

And now, having dismounted through compassion for 
our unfortunate little donkeys, the first thing we observe 
is the curious mixture of debris underfoot. At Ghizeh 
one treads only sand and pebbles; but here at Sakkarah 


the whole plateau is thickly strewn with scraps of broken 
pottery, limestone, marble, and alabaster ; flakes of green 
and blue glaze; bleached bones; shreads of yellow linen, 
and lumps of some odd-looking, dark-brown substance, like 
dried-up sponge. Presently some one picks up a little 
noseless head of one of the common blue-ware funereal 
statuettes, and immediately we all fall to work, grubbing 
for treasure — a pure waste of precious time; for, though the 
sand is full of debris, it has been sifted so often and so 
carefully by the Arabs that it no longer contains anything 
worth looking for. Meanwhile, one finds a fragment of 
iridescent glass — another, a morsel of shattered vase — a 
third, an opaque bead of some kind of yellow paste. And 
then, with a sbock which the present writer, at all events, 
will not soon forget, we suddenly discover that these scat- 
tered bones are human — that those linen shreds are shreds 
of cerement cloths — that yonder odd-looking brown lumps 
are rent fragments of what once was living flesh! And 
now for the first time we realize that every inch of this 
ground on which we are standing, and all these hillocks 
and hollows and pits in the sand, are violated graves. 

" Ge n'est que le premier pas qu% coute." We soon 
became quite hardened to such sights and learned to rum- 
mage among dusty sepulchers with no more compunction 
than would have befitted a gang of professional body- 
snatchers. These are experiences upon which one looks 
back afterward with wonder and something like remorse; 
but so infectious is the universal callousness, and so over- 
mastering is the passion for relic-hunting, that I do not 
doubt we should again do the same things under the same 
circumstances. Most Egyptian travelers, if questioned, 
would have to make a similar confession. Shocked at 
first, they denounce with horror the whole system of sepul- 
chral excavation, legal as well as predatory ; acquiring, 
however, a taste for scarabs and funerary statuettes, they 
soon begin to buy with eagerness the spoils of the dead; 
finally, they forget all their former scruples and ask no 
better fortune than to discover and confiscate a tomb for 

Notwithstanding that I had first seen the pyramids of 
Ghizeh, the size of the Sakkarah group — especially of the 
pyramid in platforms — took me by surprise. They are all 
smaller than the pyramids of Klmfu and Khafra and 


would no doubt look sufficiently insignificant if seen with 
them in close juxtaposition; but taken by themselves they 
are quite vast enough for grandeur. As for the pyramid 
in platforms (which is the largest at Sakkarah, and next 
largest to the pyramid of Khafra), its position is so fine, its 
architectural style so exceptional, its age so immense that 
one altogether loses sight of these questions of relative 
magnitude. If Egyptologists are right in ascribing the 
royal title hieroglyphed on the inner door of this pyramid 
to Ouenephes, the fourth king of the first dynasty, then 
it is the most ancient building in the world. It had been 
standing from five to seven hundred years when King 
Khufu began his great pyramid at Ghizeh. It was over 
two thousand years old when Abraham was born. It is 
now about six thousand eight hundred years old according 
to Manetho and Mariette, or about four thousand eight 
hundred according to the computation of Bunsen. One's 
imagination recoils upon the brink of such a gulf of time. 

The door of this pyramid was carried off with other 
precious spoils by Lepsius and is now in the museum at 
Berlin. The evidence that identifies the inscription is 
tolerably direct. According to Manetho, an Egyptian his- 
torian who wrote in Greek and lived in the reign of Ptol- 
emy Philadelphia, King Ouenephes built for himself a 
pyramid at a place called Kokhome. Now a tablet dis- 
covered in the Serapeum by Mariette gives the name of 
Ka-kem to the necropolis of Sakkarah; and as the pyramid 
in stages is not only the largest on this platform, but is 
also the only one in which a royal cartouche has been 
found, the conclusion seems obvious. 

When a building has already stood for five or six thou- 
sand years in a climate where mosses and lichens, and all 
those natural signs of age to which we are accustomed in 
Europe, are unknown, it is not to be supposed that a few 
centuries more or less can tell upon its outward appearance; 
yet to my thinking the pyramid of Ouenephes looks older 
than those of Ghizeh. If this be only fancy, it gives one, 
at all events, the impression of belonging structurally to a 
ruder architectural period. The idea of a monument com- 
posed of diminishing platforms is in its nature more prim- 
itive than that of a smooth four-sided pyramid. We 
remarked that the masonry on one side — I think on the 
side facing eastward — was in a much more perfect con- 
dition than on either of the others. 


Wilkinson describes the interior as "a hollow dome 
supported here and there by wooden rafters," and states 
that the sepulchral chamber was lined with blue porcelain 
tiles.* We would have liked to go inside, but this is no 
longer possible, the entrance being blocked by a recent fall 
of masonry 

Making up now for lost time, we rode on as far as the 
house built in 1850 for Mariette's accommodation during 
the excavation of the Serapeum — a labor which extended 
over a period of more than four years. The Serapeum, it 
need hardly be said, is the famous and long-lost sepulchral 
temple of the sacred bulls. These bulls (honored by the 
Egyptians as successive incarnations of Osiris) inhabited 
the temple of Apis at Memphis while they lived; and, 
being mummied after death, were buried in catacombs 
prepared for them in the desert. In 1850, Mariette, 
traveling in the interests of the French government, dis- 
covered both the temple and the catacombs, being, accord- 
ing to his own narrative, indebted for the clew to a certain 
passage in Strabo, which describes the Temple of Serapis as 
being situate in a district where the sand was so drifted by 
the wind that the approach to it was in danger of being 
overwhelmed; while the sphinxes on either side of the 
great avenue were already more or less buried, some having 
only their heads above the surface. "If Strabo had not 
written this passage," says Mariette, "it is probable that 
the Serapeum would still be lost under the sands of the 
necropolis of Sakkarah. One day, however (in 1850), 
being attracted to Sakkarah by my Egyptological studies. 
I perceived the head of a sphinx showing above the surface. 
It evidently occupied its original position. Close by lay a 
libation-table on which was engraved a hieroglyphic 
inscription to Apis-Osiris. Then that passage in Strabo 
came to my memory, and I knew that beneath my feet lay 
the avenue leading to the long and vainly sought Serapeum. 
Without saying a word to any one I got some workmen 
together and we began excavating. The beginning was 
difficult; but soon the lions, the peacocks, the Greek 

* Some of these tiles are to be seen in the Egyptian department of 
the British Museum. They are not blue, but of a bluish green. For 
a view of the sepulchral chamber, see Maspero's "Archeologie Egvp- 
tienne," fig. 230, p. 256. [Note to second edition.] 


statues of theDromos, the inscribed tablets of the Temple 
of Nectanebo* rose up from the sands. Thus was the 
Serapeum discovered." 

The house — a slight, one-storied building on a space of 
rocky platform — looks down upon a sandy hollow which 
now presents much the same appearance that it must have 
presented when Marietta was first reminded of the fortu- 
nate passage in Strabo. One or two heads of sphinxes 
peep up here and there in a ghastly way above the sand 
and mark the line of the great avenue. The upper half 
of a boy riding on a peacock, apparently of rude execu- 
tion, is "also visible. The rest is already as completely 
overwhelmed as if it had never been uncovered. One can 
scarcely believe that only twenty years ago the whole place 
was entirely cleared at so vast an expenditure of time and 
labor. The work, as I have already mentioned, took four 
years to complete. This avenue alone was six hundred 
feet in length and bordered by an army of sphinxes, one 
hundred and forty-one of which were found in situ. As 
the excavation neared the end of the avenue, the causeway, 
which followed a gradual descent between massive walls, 
lay seventy feet below the surface. The labor was immense 
and the difficulties were innumerable. The ground had to 
be contested inch by inch. " In certain places," says 
Mariette, " the sand was fluid, so to speak, and baffled us 
like water continually driven back and seeking to regain 
its level. "f 

If, however, the toil was great, so also was the rew r ard. 
A main avenue terminated by a semicircular platform, 
around which stood statues of famous Greek philosophers 
and poets; a second avenue at right angles to the first; the 
remains of the great temple of the Serapeum ; three 
smaller temples; and three distinct groups of Apis cata- 
combs were brought to light. A descending passage open- 
ing from a chamber in the great temple led to the cata- 

* Nectanebo I and Nectanebo II were the last native Pharaohs of 
ancient Egypt, and nourished between b. c. 378 and b. c. 340. An 
earlier temple must have preceded the Serapeum built by Nec- 
tanebo I. 

f For an excellent and exact account of the Serapeum and the 
monuments there discovered, see M. Arthur Rhone's " L'Egypte en 
Petites Journees." [Note to second edition.] 


combs — vast labyrinths of vaults and passages hewn out of 
the solid rock on which the temples were built. These 
three groups of excavations represent three epochs of 
Egyptian history. The first and most ancient series con- 
sists of isolated vaults dating from the eighteenth to the 
twenty-second dynasty ; that is to say, from about b. c. 
1703 to b. c. 980. The second group, which dates from the 
reign of Sheshonk I (twenty-second dynasty, b. c. 980) 
to that of Tirhakah, the last king of the twenty-fifth 
dynasty, is more systematically planned, and consists of 
one long tunnel bordered on each side by a row of funereal 
chambers. The third belongs to the Greek period, be- 
ginning with Psammetichus I (twenty-sixth dynasty, 
b. c. 6G5) and ending with the latest Ptolemies. Of these, 
the first are again choked with sand; the second are con- 
sidered unsafe; and the third only is accessible to travelers. 

After a short but toilsome walk and some delay outside 
a prison-like door at the bottom of a steep descent, we were 
admitted by the guardian — a gaunt old Arab with a lantern 
in his hand. It was not an inviting looking place within. 
The outer daylight fell upon a rough step or two, beyond 
which all was dark. We went in. A hot, heavy atmos- 
phere met us on the threshold; the door fell to with a 
dull clang, the echoes of which went wandering away as if 
into the central recesses of the earth; the Arab chattered 
and gesticulated. He was telling us that we were now in 
the great vestibule and that it measured ever so many 
feet in this and that direction; but we could see nothing — 
neither the vaulted roof overhead, nor the walls on any 
side, nor even the ground beneath our feet. It was like 
the darkness of infinite space. 

A lighted candle was then given to each person and the 
Arab led the way. He went dreadfully fast and it seemed 
at every step as if one were on the brink of some frightful 
chasm. Gradually, however, our eyes became accustomed 
to the gloom, and we found that we had passed out of the 
vestibule into the first great corridor. All was vague, 
mysterious, shadowy. A dim perspective loomed out of 
the darkness. The lights twinkled and flitted like wander- 
ing sparks of stars. The Arab held his lantern to the walls 
here and there, and showed us some votive tablets in- 
scribed with records of pious visits paid by devout 
Egyptians to the sacred tombs. Of these they found five 


hundred when the catacombs were first opened ; but 
Mariette sent nearly all to the Louvre. 

A few steps farther and we came to the tombs — a suc- 
cession of great vaulted chambers hewn out at irregular 
distances along both sides of the central corridor and sunk 
some six or eight feet below the surface. In the middle of 
each chamber stood an enormous sarcophagus of polished 
granite. The Arab, flitting on ahead like a black ghost, 
paused a moment before each cavernous opening, flashed 
the light of his lantern on the sarcophagus and sped away 
again, leaving us to follow as we could. 

So we went on, going every moment deeper into the solid 
rock and farther from theopenairand thesunshine. Think- 
ing it would be cold underground, we had brought warm 
wraps in plenty; but the heat, on the contrary, was intense, 
and the atmosphere stifling. We had not calculated on 
the dryness of the place, nor had we remembered that or- 
dinary mines and tunnels are cold because they are damp. 
But here for incalculable ages — for thousands of years 
probably before the Nile had even cut its path through the 
rocks of Silsilis — a cloudless African sun had been pouring 
its daily floods of light and heat upon the dewless desert 
overhead. The place might well be unendurable. It was 
like a great oven stored with the slowly accumulated heat 
of cycles so remote and so many, that, the earliest periods 
of Egyptian history seem, when compared with them, to 
belong to yesterday. 

Having gone on thus for a distance of nearly two hun- 
dred yards, we came to a chamber containing the first hiero- 
glyphed sarcophagus we had yet seen; all the rest being 
polished, but plain. Here the Arab paused ; and, finding 
access provided by means of a flight of wooden steps, we 
went down into the chamber, Avalked round the sarcoph- 
agus, peeped inside by the help of a ladder, and examined 
the hieroglyphs with which it is covered. Enormous as 
they look from above, one can form no idea of the bulk of 
these huge monolithic masses except from the level on 
which they stand. This sarcophagus, which dates from 
the reign of Amasis, of the twenty-sixth dynasty, measured 
fourteen feet in length by eleven' in height, and consisted 
of a single block of highly wrought black granite. Four 
persons might sit in it round a small card-table, and play a 
rubber comfortably. 


From this point the corridor branches off for another 
two hundred yards or so, leading always to more chambers 
and more sarcophagi, of which last there are altogether 
twenty-four. Three only are inscribed; none measure less 
than from thirteen to fourteen feet in length; and all are 
empty. The lids in every instance have been pushed back 
a little way, and some are fractured; but the spoilers have 
been unable wholly to remove them. According to 
Mariette, the place was pillaged by the early Christians, 
who, besides carrying off whatever they could find in the 
way of gold and jewels, seem to have destroyed the mum- 
mies of the bulls and razed the great temple nearly to the 
ground. Fortunately, however, they either overlooked, or 
left as worthless, some hundreds of exquisite bronzes and 
the five hundred votive tablets before mentioned, which, 
as they record not only the name and rank of the visitor, 
but also, with few exceptions, the name and year of the 
reigning Pharaoh, afford invaluable historical data, and 
are likely to do more than any previously discovered docu- 
ments toward clearing up disputed points of Egyptian 

It is a curious fact that one out of the three inscribed 
sarcophagi should bear the oval of Cambyses — that Caui- 
byses of whom it is related that, having desired the priests 
of Memphis to bring before him the god Apis, he drew 
his dagger in a transport of rage and contempt and stabbed 
the animal in the thigh. According to Plutarch, he slew 
the beast and cast out its body to the dogs; according to 
Herodotus, " Apis lay some time pining in the temple, 
but at last died of his wound, and the priests buried him 
secretly;" but according to one of these precious Sera- 
peum tablets, the wounded bull did not die till the fourth 
year of the reign of Darius. So wonderfully does modern 
discovery correct and illustrate tradition. 

And now comes the sequel to this ancient story in the 
shape of an anecdote related by M. About, who tells how 
Mariette, being recalled suddenly to Paris some months 
after the opening of the Serapeum, found himself without 
the means of carrying away all his newly excavated an- 
tiquities, and so buried fourteen cases in the desert, there 
to await his return. One of these cases contained an 
Apis mummy which had escaped discovery by the early 
Christians ; and this mummy was that of the identical 


Apis stabbed by Cambyses. That the creature had actually 
survived his wound was proved by the condition of one of 
the thigh-bones, which showed unmistakable signs of both 
injury and healing. 

Nor does the story end here. Mariette being gone, and 
having taken with him all that was most portable among 
his treasures, there came to Memphis one whom M. About 
indicates as " a young and august stranger" traveling in 
Egypt for his pleasure. The Arabs, tempted perhaps by 
a princely bakhshish, revealed the secret of the hidden 
cases; whereupon the archduke swept off the whole four- 
teen, dispatched them to Alexandria, and immediately 
shipped them for Trieste.* "Quant an coupable," says 
M. About, who professes to have had the story direct from 
Mariette, "ilafini si tragiquement dans un autre hemi- 
sphere que, tout bien pese, je renonce a publier son nora." 
But through so transparent a disguise it is not difficult to 
identify the unfortunate hero of this curious anecdote. 

The sarcophagus in which the Apis was found remains 
in the vaults of the Serapeum; but we did not see it. Hav- 
ing come more than two hundred yards already, and being 
by this time well-nigh suffocated, we did not care to put 
two hundred yards more between ourselves and the light 
of day. So we turned back at the half distance — having, 
however, first burned a pan of magnesian powder, which 
flared up wildly for a few seconds; lit the huge gallery and 
all its cavernous recesses and the wondering faces of the 
Arabs, and then went out with a plunge, leaving the dark- 
ness denser than before. 

From hence, across a farther space of sand we went in 
all the blaze of noon to the tomb of one Ti, a priest and 
commoner of the fifth dynasty, wdio married with a lady 
named Neferhotep-s, the granddaughter of a Pharaoh, and 
here built himself a magnificent tomb in the desert. 

On the facade of this tomb, which must originally have 
looked like a little temple, only two large pillars remain. 
Next comes a square court-yard, surrounded by a roofless 
colonnade, from one corner of which a covered passage 
leads to two chambers. In the center of the court-yard 

* These objects, known as "The Miramar Collection," and cata- 
logued by Professor Keinisch, are now removed to Vienna. [Note 
to second edition.] 


yawns an open pit some twenty-five feet in depth, with a 
shattered sarcophagus just visible in the gloom of the 
vault below. All here is limestone — walls, pillars, pave- 
ments, even the excavated debris with which the pit hud 
been filled in when the vault was closed forever. The 
quality of this limestone is close and fine like marble, and 
so white that, although the walls and columns of the 
court-yard are covered with sculptures of most exquisite ex- 
ecution and of the greatest interest, the reflected light is so 
intolerable that we find it impossible to examine them with 
the interest they deserve. In the passage, however, where 
there is shade, and in the large chamber, where it is so dark 
that we can see only by the help of lighted candles, we find a 
succession of bas-reliefs so numerous and so closely packed 
that it would take half a day to see them properly. 
Banged in horizontal parallel lines about a foot and a half 
in depth, these extraordinary pictures, row above row, 
cover every inch of wall-space from floor to ceiling. The 
relief is singularly low. I should doubt if it anywhere ex- 
ceeds a quarter of an inch. The surface, which is covered 
with a thin film of very fine cement, has a quality and 
]:>olish like ivory. The figures measure an average height 
of about twelve inches, and all are colored. 

Here, as in an open book, we have the biography of Ti. 
His whole life, his pleasures, his business, his domestic 
relations, are brought before us with just that faithful sim- 
plicity which makes the charm of Montaigne and Pepys. 
A child might read the pictured chronicles which illumi- 
nate these walls and take as keen a pleasure in them as the 
wisest of archaeologists. 

Ti was a wealthy man and his wealth was of the agri- 
cultural sort. He owned flocks and herds and vassals in 
plenty. He kept many kinds of birds and beasts — geese, 
ducks, pigeons, cranes, oxen, goats, asses, antelopes and 
gazelles. He was fond of fishing and fowling, and used 
sometimes to go after crocodiles and hippopotamuses, 
which came down as low as Memphis in his time. He was 
a kind husband, too, and a good father, and loved to 
share his pleasures with his family. Here we see him sit- 
ting in state with his wife and children, while professional 
singers and dancers perform before them. Yonder they 
walk out together and look on while the farm-servants are 
at work, and watch the coming in of the boats that bring 


home the produce of Ti's more distant lands. Here the 
geese are being driven home; the cows are crossing a ford; 
the oxen are plowing; the sower is scattering his seed; the 
reaper plies his sickle; the oxen tread the grain; the corn 
is stored in the granary. There are evidently no independ- 
ent tradesfolk in these early days of the world. Ti has his 
own artificers on his own estate, and all his goods and chat- 
tels are home-made. Here the carpenters are fashioning 
new furniture for the house; the shipwrights are busy on 
new boats; the potters mold pots; the metal-workers smelt 
ingots of red gold. It is plain to see that Ti lived like a 
king within his own boundaries. He makes an imposing 
figure, too, in all these scenes, and, being represented 
about eight times as large as his servants, sits and stands a 
giant among pigmies. His wife (we must not forget that 
she was of the blood royal) is as big as himself; and the 
children are depicted about half the size of their parents. 
Curiously enough, Egyptian art never outgrew this early 
naivete. The great man remained a big man to the last 
days of the Ptolemies, and the fellah was always a 

Apart from these and one or two other mannerisms, 
nothing can be more natural than the drawing, or more 
spirited than the action, of all these men and animals. 
The most difficult and transitory movements are expressed 
with masterly certitude. The donkey kicks up his heels 
and brays — the crocodile plunges — the wild duck rises on 
the wing; and the fleeting action is caught in each in- 
stance with a truthfulness that no landseer could distance. 
The forms, which have none of the conventional stiffness 
of later Egyptian work, are modeled roundly and boldly 
yet finished with exquisite precision and delicacy. The 

* A more exhaustive study of the funerary texts has of late revolu- 
tionized our interpretation of these and similar sepulchral tableaux. 
The scenes they represent are not, as was supposed when this book 
was fust written, mere episodes in the daily life of the deceased; but 
are links in the elaborate story of his burial and his ghostly existence 
after death. The corn is sown, reaped, and gathered in order that it 
may be ground and made into funerary cakes ; the oxen, goats, 
gazelles, geese and other live stock are destined for sacrificial offer- 
ings; the pots, and furniture, and household goods are for burying 
with the mummy in his tomb; and it is his " Ka," or ghostly double, 
that takes part in these various scenes, and not the living man. [Note 
to second edition.] 



coloring, however, is purely decorative; and, being laid on 
in single tints, with no attempt at gradation or shading, 
conceals rather than enhances the beauty of the sculp- 
tures. These, indeed, are best seen where the color is en- 
tirely rubbed off. The tints are yet quite brilliant in parts 
of the larger chamber; but in the passage and court-yard, 
which have been excavated only a few years and are with 
difficulty kept clear from day to day, there is not a vestige 
of color left. This is the work of the sand — that patient 
laborer whose office it is not only to preserve but to destroy. 
The sand secretes and preserves the work of the sculptor, 
but it effaces the work of the painter. In sheltered places 
where it accumulates passively like a snow-drift, it brings 
away only the surface detail, leaving the under colors 
rubbed and dim. But nothing, as I 
had occasion constantly to remark in 
the course of the journey, removes 
color so effectually as sand which is 
exposed to the shifting action of the 

This tomb, as we have seen, con- 
sists of a portico, a court-yard, two 
chambers, and a sepulchral vault ; 
but it also contains a secret passage 
of the kind known as a "serdab." 
These " serdabs," which are con- 
structed in the thickness of the walls and have no 
entrances, seem to be peculiar to tombs of the ancient em- 
pire (i.e. the period of the pyramid kings); and they contain 
statues of the deceased of all sizes, in wood, lime-stone, 
and granite. Twenty statues of Ti were here found im- 
mured in the "serdab" of his tomb, all broken save one — a 
spirited figure in lime-stone, standing about seven feet high, 
and now in the museum at Boulak. This statue represents a 
fine young man in a white tunic, and is evidently a portrait. 
The features are regular; the expression is good-natured; 
the whole tournure of the head is more Greek than Egyp- 
tian. The flesh is painted of a yellowish brick tint, and 
the figure stands in the usual hieratic attitude, with the 
left leg advanced, the hands clenched, and the arms 
straightened close to the sides. One seems to know Ti so 
well after seeing the wonderful pictures in his tomb, that 



this charming statue interests one like the portrait of a 
familiar friend.* 

How pleasant it was, after being suffocated in the Sera- 
peum and broiled in the tomb of Ti, to return to Mari- 
ettas deserted bouse and eat our luncheon on the cool 
stone terrace that looks northward over the desert! Some 
wooden tables and benches are hospitably left here for the 
accommodation of travelers, and fresh water in ice-cold 
kullehs is provided by the old Arab guardian. The yards 
and offices at the back are full of broken statues and frag- 
ments of inscriptions in red and black granite. Two 
sphinxes from the famous avenue adorn the terrace and 
look down upon their half-buried companions in the sand- 
hollow below. The yellow desert, barren and undulating, 
with a line of purple peaks on the horizon, reaches away 
into the far distance. To the right, under a jutting ridge 
of rocky plateau not two hundred yards from the house, 
yawns an opened-mouthed black-looking cavern shored up 
with heavy beams and approached by a slope of debris. 
This is the forced entrance to the earlier vaults of the 
Serapeum, in one of which was found a mummy described 
by Mariette as that of an Apis, but pronounced by Brugsch 
to be the body of Prince Kha-em-uas, governor of Mem- 
phis and the favorite son of Rameses the Great. 

This remarkable mummy, which looked as much like a 
bull as a man, was found covered with jewels and gold 
chains and precious amulets engraved with the name of 
Kha-em-uas, and had on its face a golden mask; all which 
treasures are now to be seen in the Louvre. If it was the 
mummy of an Apis, then the jewels with which it was 
adorned were probably the offering of the prince at that 
time ruling in Memphis. If, on the contrary, it was the 
mummy of a man, then, in order to be buried in a place 
of peculiar sanctity, he probably usurped one of the vaults 
prepared for the god. The question is a curious one and 

* These statues were not mere portrait-statues; but were designed 
as bodily habitations for the incorporeal ghost, or " Ka," which it 
was supposed needed a body, food and drink, and must perish ever- 
lastingly if not duly supplied with these necessaries. Hence the 
whole system of burying food-offerings, furniture, stuffs, etc., in an- 
cient Egyptian sepulchers. [Note to second edition.] 


remains unsolved to this day; but it could no doubt be set- 
tled at a glance by Professor Owen.* 

Far more startling, however, than the discovery of either 
Apis or jewels was the sight beheld by Mariette on first 
entering that long-closed sepulchral chamber. The mine 
being sprung and the opening cleared he went in alone ; 
and there, on the thin layer of sand that covered the floor 
he found the footprints of the workmen who, three thou- 
sand seven hundred years f before, had laid that shapeless 
mummy in its tomb and closed the doors upon it, as they 
believed, forever. 

And now — for the afternoon is already waning fast — the 
donkeys are brought round and we are told that it is time 
to move on. We have the sight of Memphis and the fa- 
mous prostrate colossus yet to see and the long road lies all 
before us. So back we ride across the desolate sands; and 
with a last, long, wistful glance at the pyramid in plat- 
forms, go down from the territory of the dead into the 
land of the living. 

There is a wonderful fascination about this pyramid. 
One is never weary of looking at it — of repeating to one's 
self that it is indeed the oldest building on the face of the 
whole earth. The king who erected it came to the throne, 
according to Manetho, about eighty years after the death 
of Mena, the founder of the Egyptian monarchy. All we 
have of him is his pyramid; all we know of him is his 
name. And these belong, as it were, to the infancy of the 
human race. In dealing with Egyptian dates one is apt to 
think lightly of periods that count only by centuries ; but 
it is a habit of mind which leads to error and it should be 
combated. The present writer found it useful to be con- 
stantly comparing relative chronological eras ; as, for 
instance, in realizing the immense antiquity of the Sak- 
karah pyramid, it is some help to remember that from the 
time when it was built by King Ouenephes to the time 
when King Khufu erected the great pyramid of Ghizeh, 
there probably lies a space of years equivalent to that 
which, in the history of England, extends from the date 

* The actual tomb of Prince Klia-em-uas lias been found at Mem- 
phis by M. Maspero within the last three or four years. [Note to 
second edition.] 

\ The date is Mariette's. 


of the conquest to the accession of George II.* And yet 
Klmfu himself — the Cheops of the Greek historians — is 
but a shadowy figure hovering upon the threshold of 
Egyptian history. 

And now the desert is left behind and we are nearing 
the palms that lead to Memphis. We have, of course, been 
dipping into Herodotus — every one takes Herodotus up the 
Nile — and our heads are full of the ancient glories of this 
famous city. We know that Mena turned the course of 
the river in order to build it on this very spot, and that all 
the most illustrious Pharaohs adorned it with temples, 
palaces, pylons and precious sculptures. We had read of 
the great Temple of Ptah that Pameses the Great enriched 
with colossi of himself; and of the sanctuary where Apis 
lived in state, taking his exercise in a pillared court-yard 
where every column was a statue; and of the artificial lake 
and the sacred groves and the obelisks and all the wonders 
of a city which, even in its later days, was one of the most 
populous in Egypt. 

Thinking over these things by the way, Ave agree that 
it is well to have left Memphis till the last. We shall 
appreciate it the better for having first seen that other city 
on the edge of the desert to which, for nearlv six thousand 
years, all Memphis was quietly migrating, generation 
after generation. We know now how poor folk labored, and 
how great gentlemen amused themselves, in those early 
days when there were hundreds of country gentlemen like 
Ti, with town-houses at Memphis and villas by the Nile. 
From the Serapeum, too, buried and ruined as it is, one 
cannot but come away with a profound impression of the 
splendor and power of a religion which could command 
for its myths such faith, such homage, and such public 

And now we are once more in the midst of the palm- 

* There was no worship of Apis in the days of King Ouenephes, 
nor, indeed, until the reign of Kaiechos, more than one hundred and 
twenty years after his time. But at some subsequent period of the 
ancient empire his pyramid was appropriated by the priests of 
Memphis for the mummies of the sacred bulls. This, of course, 
was done before any of the known Apis catacombs were excavated. 
There are doubtless many more of these catacombs yet undis- 
covered, nothing prior to the eighteenth dynasty having yet been 


woods, threading our way among the same mounds that 
we passed in the morning. Presently those in front strike 
away from the beaten road across a grassy flat to the right; 
and the next moment we are all gathered round the brink 
of a muddy pool, in the midst of which lies a shapeless 
block of blackened and corroded limestone. This, it seems, 
is the famous prostrate colossus of Rameses the Great, 
which belongs to the British nation, but which the British 
government is too economical to. remove.* So here it 
lies, face downward; drowned once a year by the Nile; 
visible only when the pools left by the inundation have 
evaporated, and all the muddy hollows are dried up. It is 
one of two which stood at the entrance to the great Temple 
of Ptah; and by those who have gone down into the hollow 
and seen it from below in the dry season, it is reported of 
as a noble and very beautiful specimen of one of the best 
periods of Egyptian art. 

Where, however, is the companion colossus? Where is 
the temple itself? Where are the pylons, the obelisk, the 
avenues of sphinxes? Where, in short, is Memphis? 

The dragoman shrugs his shoulders and points to the 
barren mounds among the palms. 

They look like gigantic dust-heaps and stand from 
thirty to forty feet above the plain. Nothing grows upon 
them, save here and there a tuft of stunted palm; and 
their substance seems to consist chiefly of crumbled brick, 
broken potsherds, and fragments of limestone. Some 
few traces of brick foundations and an occasional block or 
two of shaped stone are to be seen in places low down 
against the foot of one or two of the mounds; but one 
looks in vain for any sign which might indicate the out- 
line of a boundary wall or the position of a great public 

And is this all? 

No — not quite all. There are some mud-huts yonder, 
in among the trees; and in front of one of these we find 
a number of sculptured fragments — battered sphinxes, 
torsos without legs, sitting figures without heads — 
in green, black, and red granite. Ranged in an irregu- 
lar semicircle on the sward, they seem to sit in forlorn 

* This colussus is now raised upon a brick pedestal. [Note to 
second edition.] 


conclave, half solemn, half ludicrous, with the goats 
browsing round, and the little Arab children hiding 
behind them. 

Near this, in another pool, lies another red-granite 
colossus — not the fellow to that which we saw first, but a 
smaller one — also face downward. 

And this is all that remains of Memphis, eldest of cities 
— a few huge rubbish-heaps, a dozen or so of broken 
statues, and a name! One looks round and tries in vain 
to realize the lost splendors of the place. Where is the 
Memphis that King Mena came from Thinis to found — 
the Memphis of Ouenephes, and Khufa, and Khafra, and 
all the early kings who built their pyramid-tombs in the 
adjacent desert? Where is the Memphis of Herodotus, of 
Strabo, of Abd-el-Latif ? Where are those stately ruins 
which, even in the middle ages, extended over a space 
estimated at "half a day's journey in every direction"? 
One can hardly believe that a great city ever flourished 
on this spot, or understand how it should have been 
effaced so utterly. Yet here it stood — here where the 
grass is green, and the palms are growing, and the 
Arabs build their hovels on the verge of the inunda- 
tion. The great colossus marks the site of the main 
entrance to the Temple of Ptah. It lies where it fell, and 
no man has moved it. That tranquil sheet of palm- 
fringed back-water, beyond which we see the village of 
Mitrahlneh and catch a distant glimpse of the pyramids of 
Ghizeh, occupies the basin of a vast artificial lake exca- 
vated by Mena. The very name of Memphis survives in 
the dialect of the fellah, who calls the place of the 
mounds Tell' Monf* — just as Sakkarah fossilizes the name 
of Sokari, one of the special denominations of the Mem- 
phite Osiris. 

No capital in the world dates so far back as this or kept 
it place in history so long. Founded four thousand years 
before our era, it beheld the rise and fall of thirty-one 
dynasties ; it survived the rule of the Persian, the Greek, 
and the Roman ; it was, even in its decadence, second only 

* Tell: Arabic for mound. Many of the mounds preserve the 
ancient names of the cities they entomb ; as Tell Basta (Bubastis); 
Kom Ombo (Ombos) ; etc., etc. Tell and Horn are synonymous 


to Alexandria in population and extent : and it continued 
to be inhabited up to the time of the Arab invasion. It 
then became the quarry from which Fostat (old Cairo) was 
built; and as the new city rose on the eastern bank the 
people of Memphis quickly abandoned their ancient 
capital to desolation and decay. 

Still a vast field of ruins remained. Abd-el-Latif, 
writing at the commencement of the thirteenth century, 
speaks with enthusiasm of the colossal statues and lions, 
the enormous pedestals, the archways formed of only three 
stones, the bas-reliefs and other wonders that were yet to 
be seen upon the spot. Marco Polo, if his wandering 
tastes had led him to the Nile, might have found some of 
the palaces and temples of Memphis still standing ; and 
Sandys, who in a.d. 1G10 went at least as far south of 
Cairo as Kafr el Iyat, says that " up the river for twenty 
miles space there was nothing but mines." Since then, 
however, the very "mines" have vanished; the palms 
have had time to grow ; and modern Cairo has doubtless 
absorbed all the building material that remained from the 
middle ages. 

Memphis is a place to read about, and think about, and 
remember; but it is a disappointing place to see. To miss 
it, however, would be to miss the first link in the whole 
chain of monumental history which unites the Egypt of 
antiquity with the world of to-day. Those melancholy 
mounds and that heron-haunted lake must be seen, if only 
that they may take their due place in the picture-gallery of 
one's memory. 

It had been a long day's work, but it came to an end at 
last ; and as we trotted our donkeys back toward the 
river a gorgeous sunset was crimsoning the palms and 
pigeon-towers of Bedreshayn. Everything seemed now to 
be at rest. A buffalo, contemplatively chewing the cud, 
lay close against the path and looked at us without moving. 
The children and pigeons were gone to bed. The pots had 
baked in the sun and been taken in long since. A tiny 
column of smoke went up here and there from amid the 
clustered huts ; but there was scarcely a moving creature 
to be seen. Presently we passed a tall, beautiful fellah 
woman standing grandly by the wayside, with her veil 
thrown back and falling in long folds to her feet. She 
smiled, put out her hand, and murmnr'd "bakhshish!" 


Her fingers were covered with rings and her arms with 
silver bracelets. She begged because to beg is honorable, 
and customary, and a master of inveterate habit ; but she 
evidently neither expected nor needed the bakhshish she 
condescended to ask for. 

A few moments more and the sunset has faded, the 
village is left behind, the last half-mile of plain is trotted 
over. And now — hungry, thirsty, dusty, worn out with 
new knowledge, new impressions, new ideas — we are once 
more at home and at rest. 




It is the rule of the Nile to hurry up the river as fast as 
possible, leaving the ruins to be seen as the bout conies 
back with the current; but this, like many another canon, 
is by no means of universal application. The traveler who 
starts late in the season has, indeed, no other course open 
to him. He must press on with speed to the end of his 
journey, if he would get back again at low Nile without 
being irretrievably stuck on a sand-bank till the next inun- 
dation floats him off again. But for those who desire not 
only to see the monuments, but to follow, however super- 
ficially, the course of Egyptian history as it is handed 
down through Egyptian art, it is above all things necessary 
to start early and to see many things by the way. 

For the history of ancient Egypt goes against the stream. 
The earliest monuments lie between Cairo and Siout, while 
the latest temples to the old gods are chiefly found in 
Nubia. Those travelers, therefore, wdio hurry blindly 
forward with or without a wind, now sailing, now tracking, 
now punting, passing this place by night, and that by day, 
and never resting till they have gained the farthest point 
of their journey, begin at the wrong end and see all their 
sights in precisely inverse order. Memphis and Sakkarah 
and the tombs of Beni Hassan should undoubtedly he 
visited on the way up. So should El Kab and Tell el 
Amarna, and the oldest parts of Karnak and Luxor. It is 
not necessary to delay long at any of these places. They 
may be seen cursorily on the way up, and be more carefully 
studied on the way down; but they should be seen as they 
come, no matter at what trifling cost of present delay and 
despite any amount of ignorant opposition. For in this 
way only is it possible to trace the progression and retro- 
gression of the arts from the pyramid-builders to the 
Caesars; or to understand at the time and on the spot in 


what order that vast and august procession of dynasties 
swept across the stage of history. 

For ourselves, as will presently be seen, it happened that 
Ave could carry only a part of this programme into effect; 
but that part, happily, was the most important. AVe never 
ceased to congratulate ourselves on having made ac- 
quaintance with the pyramids of Grhizeh and Sakkarah 
before seeing the tombs of the kings at Thebes; and 1 feel 
that it is impossible to overestimate the advantage of 
studying the sculptures of the tomb of Ti before one's 
taste is brought into contact with the debased style of 
Denderah and Esneh. We began the great book, in short, 
as it always should be begun — at its first page; thereby ac- 
quiring just that necessary insight without which many an 
after-chapter must have lost more than half its interest. 

If I seem to insist upon this point it is because things 
contrary to custom need a certain amount of insistance 
and are sure to be met by opposition. No dragoman, for 
example, could be made to understand the importance of 
historical sequence in a matter of this kind; especially in 
the case of a contract trip. To him, Khufu, Kameses and 
the Ptolemies are one. As for the monuments, they are 
all ancient Egyptian, and one is just as odd and unintel- 
ligible as another. He cannot quite understand why 
travelers come so far and spend so much money to look at 
them; but he sets it down to a habit of harmless curiosity — 
by which he profits. 

The truth is, however, that the mere sight-seeing of the 
Nile demands some little reading and organizing, if only 
to be enjoyed. We cannot all be profoundly learned; but 
we can at least do our best to understand what we see — to 
get rid of obstacles — to put the right thing in the right 
place. For the land of Egypt is, as I have said, a great 
book — not very easy reading, perhaps, under any circum- 
stances; but at all events quite difficult enough already 
without the added puzzlement of being read backward. 

And now our next point along the river, as well as our next 
link in the chain of early monuments, was Beni Hassan, 
with its famous rock-cut tombs of the twelfth dynasty; and 
Beni Hassan was still more than a hundred and forty-five 
miles distant. We ought to have gone on again directly — 
to have weighed anchor and made a few miles that very 
evening on returning to the boats; but we insisted on a second 


day in the same place. This, too, with the favorable wind 
still blowing. It was against all rule and precedent. The 
captain shook his head, the dragoman remonstrated in 

"You will come to learn the value of a wind when you 
have been longer on the Nile," said the latter, with that air 
of melancholy resignation which he always assumed when 
not allowed to have his own way. He was an indolent, 
good-tempered man, spoke English fairly well, and was 
perfectly manageable; but that air of resignation came to 
be aggravating in time. 

The M. B.'s being of the same mind, however, we had 
our second day, and spent it at Memphis. We ought to 
have crossed over to Turra and have seen the great quarries 
from which the casing-stones of the pyramids came, and 
all the finer limestone with which the temples and 
palaces of Memphis were built. But the whole mountain 
side seemed as if glowing at a white heat on the opposite 
side of the river, and w T e said we would put off Turra till 
our return. So we went our own way; and Alfred shot 
pigeons; and the writer sketched Mitrabineh and the 
palms and the sacred Lake of Mena; and the rest grubbed 
among the mounds for treasure, finding many curious 
fragments of glass and pottery, and part of an engraved 
bronze Apis; and we had a green, tranquil, lovely day, bar- 
ren of incident, but very pleasant to remember. 

The good wind continued to blow all that night, but fell 
at sunrise, precisely when we were about to start. The 
river now stretched away before us, smooth as glass, and 
there was nothing for it, said Eei's Hassan, but tracking. 
We had heard of tracking often enough since coming to 
Egypt, but without having any definite idea of the process. 
Coming on deck, however, before breakfast, we found 
nine of our poor fellows harnessed to a rope like barge- 
horses, towing the huge boat against the current. Seven 
of the M. B.s' crew, similarly harnessed, followed at a few 
yards' distance. The two ropes met and crossed and 
dipped into the water together. Already our lust night's 
mooring place was out of sight, and the pyramid of Ouen- 
ephes stood up amid its lesser brethren on the edge of the 
desert, as if bidding us good -by. But the sight of the 
trackers jarred, somehow, with the placid beauty of the 
picture, We got used to it, as one gets used to everything, 


in time; but it looked like slaves' work and shocked our 
English notions disagreeably. 

That morning, still tracking, we pass the pyramids of 
Dahshur. A dilapidated brick pyramid standing in the 
midst of them looks like an aiguille of black rock thrusting 
itself up through the limestone bed of the desert. Palms 
line the bank and intercept the view, but we catch flitting 
glimpses here and there, looking out especially for that 
dome-like pyramid which we observed the other day 
from Sakkarah. Seen in the full sunlight, it looks larger 
and whiter and more than ever like the roof of the old 
Palais de Justice far away in Paris. 

Thus the morning passes. We sit on deck writing letters, 
reading, watching the sunny river-side pictures that glide by 
at a foot's pace, and are so long in sight. Palm-groves, 
sand-banks, patches of fuzzy-headed dura* and fields of 
some yellow-flowering herb succeed each other. A boy 
plods along the bank, leading a camel. They go slowly, 
but they soon leave us behind. A native boat meets us, 
floating down sidewise with the current. A girl comes to 
the water's edge with a great empty jar on her head 
and waits to fill it till the trackers have gone by. 
The pigeon-towers of a mud village peep above a clump 
of lebbek trees, a quarter of a mile inland. Here a solitary 
brown man, with only a felt skull-cap on his head and a 
slip of scanty tunic fastened about his loins, worksa shaduf.f 

* Sorghum vulgare. 

f The shadfif has been so well described by the Kev. F. B. Zincke 
that I cannot do better than quote him verbatim: "Mechanically, 
the shadoof is an application of the lever. In no machine which the 
wit of man, aided by the accumulation of science, has since invented, 
is the result produced so great in proportion to the degree of power 
employed. The level of the shadoof is a long stout pole poised on a 
prop. The pole is at right angles to the river. A large lump of 
clay from the spot is appended to the inland end. To the river end 
is supended a goat-skin bucket. This is the whole apparatus. The 
man who is working it stands on the edge of the river. Before him 
is a hole full of water fed from the passing stream. When work- 
ing the machine he takes hold of the cord by which the empty 
bucket is suspended, and, bending down, by the mere weight of his 
shoulders dips it in the water. His effort to rise gives the bucket 
full of water an upward cant, which, with the aid of the equipoising 
lump of clay at the other end of the pole, lifts it to a trough into 
which, as it tilts on one side, it empties its contents. What he has 
done has raised the water six or seven feet above the level of the 



stooping and rising, stooping and rising, with the regu- 
larity ofa pendulum. It is the same machine which we 
shall see by and by depicted in the tombs at Thebes ; and 

■ - 


the man is so evidently an ancient Egyptian, that we find 
ourselves wondering how he escaped being mummified four 
or five thousand years ago. 

river. But if the river lias subsided twelve or fourteen feet, it will 
require another shadoof to be worked in the trough into which the 
water of the first has been brought. If the river has sunk still more, 
a third will be required before it can be lifted to the top of the bank, 
so as to enable it to flow off to the fields that require irrigation."— 
" Egypt of the Pharaohs and the Khedive," p. 445 et seq. 


By and by a little breeze springs up. The men 
drop the rope and jump on board — the big sail is set — 
— the breeze freshens — and away we go agaiu, as 
merrily as the day we left Cairo. Toward sunset we 
see a strange object, like a giant obelisk broken off half- 
way, standing up on the western bank against an orange- 
gold sky. This is the pyramid of Meydum, commonly 
called the false pyramid. It looks quite near the bank; 
but this is an effect of powerful light and shadow, for it 
lies back at least four miles from the river. That night, 
having sailed on till past nine o'clock, we moor about a 
mile from Beni Suef, and learn with some surprise that a 
man must be dispatched to the governor of the town for 
guards. Not that anything ever happened to anybody at 
Beni Su6f, says Talhamy : but that the place is supposed 
not to have a first-rate reputation. If we have guards, we 
at all events make the governor responsible for our safety 
and the safety of our possessions. So the guards are sent 
for; and being posted on the bank, snore loudly all night 
long, just outside our windows. 

Meanwhile the wind shifts round to the south, and next 
morning it blows full in our faces. The men, however, 
track up to Beni Suef to a point where the buildings come 
down to the water's edge and the towing-path ceases; and 
there we lay to for awhile among a fleet of filthy native 
boats, close to the landing-place. 

The approach to Beni Suef is rather pretty. The 
khedive has an Italian-looking villa here, which peeps up 
white and dazzling from the midst of a thickly wooded 
park. The town lies back a little from the river. A few 
coffee-houses and a kind of promenade face the landing- 
place; and a mosque built to the verge of the bank stands 
out picturesquely against the bend of the river. 

And now it is our object to turn that corner, so as to 
get into a better position for starting when the wind 
drops. The current here runs deep and strong, so that we 
have both wind and water dead against us. Half our men 
clamber round the corner like cats, carrying the rope with 
them; the rest keep the dahabeeyah off the bank with 
punting poles. The rope strains — a pole breaks — we 
struggle forward a few feet and can get no farther. Then 
the men rest awhile; try again; and are again defeated. 
So the fight goes on. The promeuade and the windows of 


the mosque become gradually crowded with lookers on. 
Some three or four cloaked and bearded men have chairs 
brought and sit gravely smoking their chibouques on the 
bank above, enjoying the entertainment. Meanwhile the 
water-carriers come and go, filling their goat-skins at the 
landing-place; donkeys and camels are brought down to 
drink; girls in dark-blue gowns and coarse black veils come 
with huge water-jars laid sidewise upon their heads and, 
having filled and replaced them upright, walk away with 
stately steps, as if each ponderous vessel were a crown. 

So the day passes. Driven back again and again, but 
still resolute, our sailors, by dint of sheer doggedness, get 
us round the bad corner at last. The Bagstones follows 
suit a little later; and we both moor about a quarter of a 
mile above the town. Then follows a night of adventures. 
Again our guards sleep profoundly; but the bad characters 
of Beni Suef are very wide awake. One gentleman, actu- 
ated no doubt by the friendliest motives, pays a midnight 
visit to the Bagstones; but being detected, chased and fired 
at, escapes by jumping overboard. Our turn comes about 
two hours later, when the writer, happening to be awake, 
hears a man swim softly round the Phila?. To strike a 
light and frighten everybody into sudden activity is the 
work of a moment. The whole boat is instantly in an up- 
roar. Lanterns are lighted on deck; a patrol of sailors is 
set; Talhamy loads his gun; and the thief slips away in 
the dark like a fish. 

The guards, of course, slept sweetly through it all. 
Honest fellows! They were paid a shilling a night to do 
it and they had nothing on their minds. 

Having lodged a formal complaint next morning against 
the inhabitants of the town, we received a visit from a sal- 
low personage clad in a long black robe and a voluminous 
white turban. This was the chief of the guards. He 
smoked a great many pipes ; drank numerous cups of 
coffee; listened to all we had to say ; looked wise ; and 
finally suggested that the number of our guards should be 

I ventured to object that if they slept unanimously forty 
would not be of much more use than four. Whereupon 
he rose, drew himself to his full height, touched his beard 
and said with a magnificent melodramatic air: " If they 
sleep they shall be bastinadoed till they die \" 


And now our good luck seemed to have deserted us. 
For three days and nights the adverse wind continued to 
blow with such force that the men could not even track 
against it. Moored under that dreary bank, we saw our 
ten days' start melting away and could only make the best 
of our misfortunes. Happily the long island close by and 
the banks on both sides of the river were populous with 
sand-grouse ; so Alfred went out daily with his faithful 
George and his unerring gun and brought home game in 
abundance, while we took long walks, sketched boats and 
camels and chaffered with native women for silver torques 
and bracelets. These torques (in Arabic Toh) are tubular 
but massive, penannular, about as thick as one's little 
finger and finished with a hook at one end and a twisted 
loop at the other. The girls would sometimes put their 
veils aside and make a show of bargaining; but more fre- 
quently, after standing for a moment with great wonder- 
ing black velvety eyes staring shyly into ours, they would 
take fright like a troop of startled deer and vanish with 
shrill cries, half of laughter, half of terror. 

At Beni Suef we encountered our first sand-storm. It 
came down the river about noon, showing like a yellow fog 
on the horizon and rolling rapidly before the wind. It 
tore the river into angry waves and blotted out the land- 
scape as it came. The distant hills disappeared first; then 
the palms beyond the island; then the boats close by. 
Another second and the air was full of sand. The whole 
surface of the plain seemed in motion. The banks rip- 
pled. The yellow dust poured down through every rift 
and cleft in hundreds of tiny cataracts. But it was a sight 
not to be looked upon with impunity. Hair, eyes, mouth, 
ears, were instantly filled and we were driven to take 
refuge in the saloon. Here, although every window and 
door had been shut before the storm came, the sand found 
its way in clouds. Books, papers, carpets, were covered 
with it; and it settled again as fast as it was cleared away. 
This lasted just one hour, and was followed by a burst of 
heavy rain; after which the sky cleared and we had a lovely 
afternoon. From this time forth, we saw no more rain in 

At length, on the morning of the fourth day after our 
first appearance at Beni Suef and the seventh since leaving 
Cairo, the wind veered round again to the north, and we 


once more got under way. It was delightful to see the big 
sail again towering up overhead, and to hear the swish of 
the water under the cabin windows; but we were still one 
hundred and nine miles from Rhoda, and we knew that 
nothing but an extraordinary run of luck could possibly get 
us there by the twenty-third of the month, with time to see 
Beni Hassan on the way. Meanwhile, however, we make 
fair progress, mooring at sunset when the wind falls, about 
three miles north of Bibbeh. Next day, by help of the 
same light breeze which again springs up a little after dawn, 
we go at a good pace between flat banks, fringed here and 
there with palms, and studded with villages more or less 
picturesque. There is not much to see, and yet one never 
wants for amusement. Now w T e pass an island of sand- 
bank covered with snow-white paddy-birds, which rise tu- 
multuously at our approach. Next comes Bibbeh, perched 
high along the edge of the precipitous bank, its odd-look- 
ing Coptic convent roofed all over with little mud domes, 
like a cluster of earth-bubbles. By and by we pass a de- 
serted sugar factory, with shattered windows and a huge, 
gaunt, blackened chimney, worthy of Birmingham or 
Sheffield. And now we catch a glimpse of the railway 
and hear the last scream of a departing engine. At night, 
we moor within sight of the factory chimneys and hy- 
draulic tubes of Magagha, and next day get on nearly to 
Golosaneh, which is the last station-town before Minieh. 

It is now only too clear that we must give up all thought 
of pushing on to Beni Hassan before the rest of the party 
shall come on board. We have reached the evening of our 
ninth day; we are still forty-eight miles from Rhoda; and 
another adverse wind might again delay us indefinitely on 
the way. All risks taken into account, we decide to put 
off our meeting till the twenty-fourth, and transfer the 
appointment to Minieh; thus giving ourselves time to track 
all the way in case of need. So an Arabic telegram is con- 
cocted, and our fleet runner starts off with it to Golosaneh 
before the office closes for the night. 

The breeze, however, does not fail, but comes back next 
morning with the dawn. Having passed Golosaneh, we 
come to a wide reach in the river, at which point we are 
honored by a visit from a Moslem santon of peculiar sanc- 
tity, named " Holy Sheik Cotton." Now Holy Sheik 
Cotton, who is a well-fed, healthy-looking young man of 


about thirty, makes his first appearance swimming, with 
his garments twisted into a huge turban on the top of his 
head, and only his chin above water. Having made his 
toilet in the small boat, he presents himself on deck and 
receives an enthusiastic welcome. Rei's Hassan hugs him 
— the pilot kisses him — the sailors come up one by one, 
bringing little tributes of tobacco and piasters, which he 
accepts with the air of a pope receiving Peter's pence. 
All dripping as he is, and smiling like an affable Triton, he 
next proceeds to touch the tiller, the ropes, and the ends 
of the yards, "in order/' says Talhamy, "to make them 
holy;" and then, with some kind of final charm or mut- 
tered incantation, he plunges into the river again, and 
swims off to repeat the same performance on board the Bag- 

From this moment the prosperity of our voyage is as- 
sured. The captain goes about with a smile on his stern 
face, and the crew look as happy as if we had given them 
a guinea. For nothing can go wrong with a dahabeeyah 
that has been " made holy" by Holy Sheik Cotton. We 
are certain now to have favorable winds — to pass the cat- 
aract without accident — to come back in health and safety, 
as we set out. But what, it may be asked, has Holy Sheik 
Cotton done to make his blessing so efficacious? He gets 
money in plenty; he fasts no oftener than other Moham- 
medans; he has two wives; he never does a stroke of work; 
and he looks the picture of sleek prosperity. Yet he is a 
saint of the first water; and when he dies, miracles will be 
performed at his tomb, and his eldest son will succeed him 
in the business. 

We had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with a good 
many saints in the course of our eastern travels; but I do 
not know that we ever found they had done anything to 
merit the position. One very horrible old man named 
Sheik Saleem has, it is true, been sitting on a dirt heap 
near Farslmt, unclothed, unwashed, unshaven, for the last 
half-century or more, never even lifting his hand to his 
mouth to feed himself; but Sheik Cotton had gone to no 
such pious lengths, and was not even dirty. 

We are by this time drawing toward a range of yellow 
cliffs that have long been visible on the horizon, and which 
figure in the maps as G-ebel et Tayr. The Arabian desert 
has been closing up on the eastern bank for some time 


past and now rolls on in undulating drifts to the water's 
edge. Yellow bowlders crop out here and there above the 
mounded sand, which looks as if it might cover many a 
forgotten temple. Presently the clay bank is gone and a 
low barrier of limestone rock, black and shiny next the 
water-line, has taken its place. And now, a long way 
ahead, where the river bends and the level cliffs lead on 
into the far distance, a little brown speck is pointed out as 
the Convent of the Pulley. Perched on the brink of the 
precipice it looks no bigger than an ant-heap. "We had 
heard much of the fine view to be seen from the platform 
on which this convent is built, and it had originally 
entered into our programme as a place to be visited on the 
way. But Minieh has to be gained now at all costs; so 
this project has to be abandoned with a sigh. 

And now the rocky barrier rises higher, quarried here 
and there in dazzling gaps of snow-white cuttings. And 
now the convent shows clearer ; and the cliffs become 
loftier; and the bend in the river is reached; and a long 
perspective of flat-topped precipice stretches away into the 
dim distance. 

It is a day of saints and swimmers. As the dahabeeyah 
approaches, a brown poll is seen bobbing up and down in 
the water a few hundred yards ahead. Then one, two, 
three bronze figures clash down a steep ravine below the 
convent walls, and plunge into the river — a shrill chorus 
of voices, growing momentarily more audible, is borne 
upon the wind — and in a few minutes the boat is beset by 
a shoal of medicant monks, vociferating with all their 
might "Ana Christian ya Ilawadji! — Ana Christian ya 
Hawadji!" ("I am a Christian, oh, traveler!") As these are 
only Coptic monks and not Moslem santons, the sailors, half 
in rough play, half in earnest, drive them off with punting 
poles; and only one shivering, streaming object, wrapped 
in a borrowed blanket, is allowed to come on board. He 
is a fine, shapely man, aged about forty, with splendid eyes 
and teeth, a well-formed head, a skin the color of a copper 
beech-leaf, and a face expressive of such ignorance, tim- 
idity, and half-savage watchfulness as makes one's heart 

And this is a Copt; a descendant of the true Egyptian 
stock; one of those whose remote ancestors exchanged the 
worship of the old gods for Christianity under the rule of 


Theodosius some fifteen hundred years ago, and whose 
blood is supposed to be purer of Mohammedan intermixture 
than any in Egypt. Remembering these things, it is im- 
possible to look at him without a feeling of profound in- 
terest. It may be only fancy, yet I think I see in him a 
different type to that of the Arab — a something, however 
slight, which recalls the sculptured figures in the tomb 
of Ti. 

But while we are thinking about his magnificent pedi- 
gree, our poor Copt's teeth are chattering piteously. So 
we give him a shilling or two for the sake of all that he 
represents in the history of the world; and with these and 
the donation of an empty bottle, he swims away contented, 
crying out again and again: " Ketther-Jchayrak Sittdt! 
KeWier-MdyrakTceteer!" ("Thank you, ladies! thank you 

And now the convent with its clustered domes is passed 
and left behind. The rock here is of the same rich tawny 
hue as at Turra, and the horizontal strata of which it is 
composed have evidently been deposited by water. That 
the Nile must at some remote time have flowed here at an 
immensely higher level seems also probable ; for the whole 
face of the range is honeycombed and water-worn for miles 
in succession. Seeing how these fantastic forms — arched, 
and clustered, and pendent — resemble the recessed orna- 
mentation of Saracenic buildings, I could not help won- 
dering whether some early Arab architect might not once 
upon a time have taken a hint from some such rocks as 

Thus the day wanes, and the level cliffs keep with us all 
the way — now breaking into little lateral valleys and cvls- 
de-sac in which nestle clusters of tiny huts and green 
patches of lupin ; now plunging sheer down into the river; 
now receding inland and leaving space for a belt of culti- 
vated soil and a fringe of feathery palms. By and by 
comes the sunset, when every cast shadow in the recesses 
of the cliffs turns to pure violet; and the face of the rock 
glows with a ruddier gold; and the palms on the western 
bank stand up in solemn bronze against a crimson horizon. 
Then the sun dips, and instantly the whole range of 
cliffs turns to a dead, greenish gray, while the sky 
above and behind them is as suddenly suffused with 
pink. When this effect has lasted for something like 


t i 

eight minutes, a vast arch of deep-blue shade, about 
as large in diameter as a rainbow, creeps slowly up 
the eastern horizon and remains distinctly visible as 
long as the pink flush against which it is defined yet 
lingers in the sky. Finally the flush fades out; the blue 
becomes uniform; the stars begin to show; and only a 
broad glow in the west marks which way the sun went 
down. About a quarter of an hour later comes the after- 
glow, when for a few minutes the sky is filled with a soft, 
magical light, and the twilight gloom lies warm upon the 
landscape. When this goes it is night; but still one long 
beam of light streams up in the track of the sun and 
remains visible for more than two hours after the darkness 
has closed in. 

Such is the sunset we see this evening as we approach 
Minieh; and such is the sunset we are destined to see, with 
scarcely a shade of difference, at the same hour and under 
precisely the same conditions for many a month to come. 
It is very beautiful, very tranquil, full of wonderful light 
and most suble gradations of tone, and attended by certain 
phenomena of which I shall have more to say presently; 
but it lacks the variety and gorgeousness of our northern 
skies. Nor, given the dry atmosphere of Egypt, can it be 
otherwise. Those who go up the Nile expecting, as I did, 
to see magnificent Turneresque pageants of purple, and 
flame-color, and gold, will be disappointed as I was. For 
your Turneresque pageant cannot be achieved without such 
accessories of cloud and vapor as in Nubia are wholly 
unknown, and in Egypt are of the rarest occurrence. 
Once, and only once, in the course of an unusually pro- 
tracted sojourn on the river, had we the good fortune to 
witness a grand display of the kind; and then we had been 
nearly three months in the dahabeeyah. 

Meanwhile, however, we never weary of these stainless 
skies, but find in them, evening after evening, fresh depths 
of beauty and repose. As for that strange transfer of color 
from the mountains to the sky, we had repeatedly observed 
it while traveling in the Dolomites the year before, and 
had always found it take place, as now, at the moment of 
the sun's first disappearance. But what of this mighty 
after-shadow, climbing half the heavens and bringing 
night with it ? Can it be the rising shadow of the world 
projected on the one horizon as the sun sinks on the other? 


I leave the problem for wiser travelers to solve. We had 
not science enough among us to account for it. 

That same evening, just as the twilight came on, we saw 
another wonder — the new moon on the first night of her 
first quarter; a perfect orb, dusky, distinct, and outlined 
all round with a thread of light no thicker than a hair. 
Nothing could be more brilliant than this tiny l'im of 
flashing silver; while every detail of the softly glowing 
globe within its compass was clearly visible. Tycho, with 
its vast crater, showed like a volcano on a raised map ; and 
near the edge of the moon's surface, where the light and 
shadow met, keen sparkles of mountain-summits catching 
the light and relieved against the dusk were to be seen by 
the naked eye. Two or three evenings later, however, 
when the silver ring was changed to a broad crescent, the 
unilluminated part was as if it were extinguished, and could 
no longer be discerned even by help of a glass. 

The wind having failed as usual at sunset, the crew set to 
work with a will and punted the rest of the way, so bring- 
ing us to Minieh about nine that night. Next morning 
we found ourselves moored close under the khedive's sum- 
mer palace — so close that one could have tossed a pebble 
against the lattice windows of his highness' hareem. A fat 
gate-keeper sat outside in the sun, smoking his morning 
chibouque and gossiping with the passers by. A narrow 
promenade scantily planted with sycamore figs ran between 
the palace and the river. A steamer or two, and a crowd 
of native boats, lay moored under the bank; and yonder, 
at the farther end of the promenade, a minaret and a 
cluster of whitewashed houses showed which way one must 
turn in going to the town. 

It chanced to be market-day; so we saw Minieh under 
its best aspect, than which nothing could well be more 
squalid, dreary, and depressing. It was like a town 
dropped unexpectedly into the midst of a plowed field ; 
the streets being mere trodden lanes of mud dust, and the 
houses a succession of windowless mud prisons with their 
backs to the thoroughfare. The bazaar, which consists of 
two or three lanes a little wider than the rest, is roofed 
over here and there with rotting palm-rafters and bits of 
tattered matting ; while the market is held in a space of 
waste ground outside the town. The former, with its 
little cupboard-like shops, in which the merchants sit cross- 


legged like shabby old idols in shabby old shrines — the 
ill-furnished shelves — the familiar Manchester goods — the 
gaudy native stuffs — the old red saddles and faded rugs 
hanging up for sale — the smart Greek stores where Bass' 
ale, claret, curacoa, Cyprus, Vermouth, cheese, pickles, 
sardines, Worcester sauce, blacking, biscuits, preserved 
meats, candles, cigars, matches, sugar, salt, stationery 
fire-works, jams, and patent medicines can all be bought at 
one fell swoop — the native cook's shop exhaling savory 
perfumes of Kebabs and lentil soup, and presided over by 
an Abyssinian Soyer blacker than the blackest historical 
personage ever was painted — the surging, elbowing, clam- 
orous crowd — the donkeys, the camels, the street-cries, the 
chatter, the dust, the flies, the fleas, and the dogs, all put 
us in mind of the poorer quarters of Cairo. In the 
market it is even worse. Here are hundreds of country 
folk sitting on the ground behind their baskets of fruits 
and vegetables. Some have eggs, butter, and buffalo- 
cream for sale, while others sell sugar-canes, limes, cab- 
bages, tobacco, barley, dried lentils, split beans, maize, 
wheat, and dura. The women go to and fro with bouquets 
of live poultry. The chickens scream ; the sellers rave ; 
the buyers bargain at the top of their voices; the dust flies 
in clouds; the sun pours down floods of light and heat; 
you can scarcely hear yourself speak ; and the crowd is as 
dense as that other crowd which at this very moment, on 
this very Christmas eve, is circulating among the alleys of 
Leaden hall Market. 

The things were very cheap. A hundred eggs cost about 
fourteen pence in English money ; chickens sold for five 
pence each; pigeons from two-pence to two-pence-half-penny; 
and fine live geese for two shillings a head. The turkeys, 
however, which were large and excellent, were priced as 
high as three-and-sixpence ; being about half as much as 
one pays in Middle and Upper Egypt for a lamb. A good 
sheep may be bought for sixteen shillings or a pound. The 
M. B.'s, who had no dragoman and did their own market- 
ing, were very busy here, laying in stores of fresh pro- 
vision, bargaining fluently in Arabic, and escorted by a 
body-guard of sailors. 

A solitary dom palm, the northernmost of its race and 
the first specimen one meets with on the Nile, grows in a 
garden adjoining this market-place ; but we could scarcely 


see it for the blinding- dust. Now, a dom palm is just the 
sort of tree that De Wint should have painted — odd, angu- 
lar, with long forked stems, each of which terminates in a 
shock-headed crown of stiff finger-like fronds shading 
heavy clusters of big shiny nuts about the size of Jerusalem 
artichokes. It is, I suppose, the only nut in the world of 
which one throws away the kernel and eats the shell ; but 
the kernel is as hard as marble, while the shell is fibrous, 
and tastes like stale gingerbread. The dom palm must 
bifurcate, for bifurcation is the law of its being; but 1 
could never discover whether there was any fixed limit to 
the number of stems into which it might subdivide. At 
the same time, I do not remember to have seen any with 
less than two heads or more than six. 

Coming back through the town, we were accosted by a 
withered one-eyed hag like a reanimated mummy, 
who offered to tell our fortunes. Before her lay a dirty 
rag of handkerchief full of shells, pebbles and chips of 
broken glass and pottery. Squatting, toad-like, under a 
sunny bit of wall, the lower part of her face closely veiled, 
her skinny arms covered with blue and green glass brace- 
lets and her fingers with misshapen silver rings, she hung 
over these treasures, shook, mixed and interrogated them 
with all the fervor of divination, and delivered a string of 
the prophecies usually forthcoming on these occasions. 

" You have a friend faraway, and your friend is think- 
ing of you. There is good fortune in store for you; and 
money coming to you; and pleasant news on the way. You 
will soon receive letters in which there will be something 
to vex you, but more to make you glad. Within thirty 
days you will unexpectedly meet one whom you dearly 
love," etc., etc., etc. 

It was just the old familiar story, retold in Arabic, with 
out even such variations as might have been expected from 
the lips of an old felhiha born and bred in a provincial 
town of Middle Egypt. 

It may be that ophthalmia especially prevailed in this part 
of the country, or that, being brought unexpectedly into 
the midst of a large crowd, one observed the people more 
narrowly, but I certainly never saw so many one-eyed 
human beings as that morning at Minieh. There must 
have been present in the streets and market-place from ten 
to twelve thousand natives of all ages, and I believe it is no 


exaggeration to say that at least every twentieth person, down 
to little toddling children of three and four years of age, 
was blind of an eye. Not being a particularly well-favored 
race, this defect added the last touch of repulsiveness to 
faces already sullen, ignorant and unfriendly. A more 
unprepossessing population I would never wish to see — the 
men half stealthy, half insolent; the women bold and 
fierce ; the children filthy, sickly, stunted and stolid. 
Nothing in provincial Egypt is so painful to witness as the 
neglected condition of very young children. Those be- 
longing to even the better class are for the most part shab- 
bily clothed and of more than doubtful cleanliness; while 
the offspring of the very poor are simply incrusted with 
dirt and sores and swarming with vermin. It is at first 
hard to believe that the parents of these unfortunate babies 
err, not from cruelty, but through sheer ignorance and 
superstition. Yet so it is; and the time when these people 
can be brought to comprehend the most elementary prin- 
ciples of sanitary reform is yet far distant. To wash young 
children is injurious to health, therefore the mothers suf- 
fer them to fall into a state of personal uncleauliness, 
which is alone enough to engender disease. To brush 
away the flies that beset their eyes is impious; hence oph- 
thalmia and various kinds of blindness. I have seen in- 
fants lying in their mothers' arms with six or eight flies in 
each eye. I have seen the little helpless hands put down 
reprovingly if they approached the seat of annoyance. I 
have seen children of four and five years old with the surface 
of one or both eyes eaten away; and others with a large, 
fleshy lump growing out where the pupil had been de- 
stroyed. Taking these things into account, the wonder is, 
after all, not that three children should die in Egypt out of 
every five — not that each twentieth person in certain dis- 
tricts should be blind, or partially blind; but that so many 
as forty per cent of the whole infant population should 
actually live to grow up, and that ninety-five per 
cent should enjoy the blessing of sight. For my own part 
I had not been many weeks on the Nile before I began sys- 
tematically to avoid going about the native towns when- 
ever it was practicable to do so. That I may so have lost 
an opportunity of now and then seeing more of the street- 
life of the people is very probable; but such outside 
glimpses are of little real value, and I at all events escaped 


the sight of much poverty, sickness and squalor. The con- 
dition of the inhabitants is not worse, perhaps, in an 
Egyptian beled* than in many an Irish village; but the 
condition of the children is so distressing that one would 
willingly go any number of miles out of the way rather 
than witness their suffering, without the power to alleviate 

If the population in and about Minieh are personally 
unattractive, their appearance at all events matches their 
reputation, which is as bad as that of their neighbors. Of 
the manners and customs of Beni Suef we had already 
some experience; while public opinion charges Minieh, 
Rhoda and most of the towns and villages north of Siut 
with the like marauding propensities. As for the villages 
at the foot of Beni Hassan, they have been mere dens of 
thieves for many generations; and though razed to the 
ground some years ago by way of punishment, are now 
rebuilt and in as bad odor as ever. It is necessary, there- 
fore, in all this part of the river, not only to hire guards 
at night, but, when the boat is moored, to keep a sharp 
lookout against thieves by day. In Upper Egypt it is very 
different. There the natives are good-looking, good- 
natured, gentle and kindly; and though clever enough at 
manufacturing and selling modern antiquities, are not 
otherwise dishonest. 

That same evening (it was Christmas eve), nearly two 
hours earlier than their train was supposed to be due, the 
rest of our party arrived at Minieh. 

* Beled — village. 

+ Miss Whately, whose evidence on this subject is peculiarly valu- 
able, states that the majority of native children die off at, or under, 
two years of age ("Among the Huts," p. 29); while M. About, who 
en]oved unusual opportunities of inquiring into facts connected with 
the population and resources of the country, says that the nation 
loses three children out of every five. " L'ignorance publique, 
I'oubli des premiers elements d'hygiene, la mauvaise alimentation, 
l'absence presque totale des soins medicaux, tarissent la nation dans 
sa source. Un peuple qui perd regulierement trios enfants sur cinq 
ne saurait croitre sans miracle." — " Le Fellah," p. 165. 




It is Christmas day. The M. B.'s are coming to 

dinner; the cooks are up to their eyes in entrees; the crew 
are treated to a sheep in honor of the occasion; the new- 
comers are unpacking; and we are all gradually settling- 
down into our respective places. Now the new-comers 
consist of four persons: a painter, a happy couple and a 
maid. The painter has already been up the Nile three 
times and brings a fund of experience into the council. 
He knows all about sand-banks and winds and mooriug- 
places; is acquainted with most of the native governors 
and consuls along the river; and is great on the subject of 
what to eat, drink and avoid. The stern-cabin is given to 
him for a studio and contains frames, canvases, drawing- 
paper and easels enough to start a provincial school of art. 
He is going to paint a big picture at Aboo-Simbel. The 
happy couple it is unnecessary to say are on their wedding 
tour. In point of fact, they have not yet been married a 
month. The bridegroom is what the world chooses to call 
an idle man; that is to say, he has scholarship, delicate 
health and leisure. The bride, for convenience, shall be 
called the little lady. Of people who are struggling 
through that helpless phase of human life called the honey- 
moon, it is not fair to say more than that they are both 
young enough to make the situation interesting. 

Meanwhile the deck must be cleared of the new luggage 
that has come on board and the day passes in a confusion 
of unpacking, arranging and putting away. Such running 
to and fro as there is down below; such turning-out of 
boxes and knocking-up of temporary shelves; such talking, 
and laughing, and hammering ! Nor is the bustle con- 
fined to dowus-tairs. Talhamy and the waiters are just as 
busy above, adorning the upper deck with palm branches 
and hanging the boat all round with rows of colored lau- 


terns. One can hardly believe, however, that it is Christ- 
mas day — that there are fires blazing at home in every 
room; that the church field, perhaps, is white with snow; 
and that familiar bells are ringing merrily across the frosty 
air. Here at midday it is already too hot on deck without 
the awning, and when we moor toward sunset near a river- 
side village in a grove of palms, the cooler air of evening 
is delicious. 

There is novelty in even such a commonplace matter as 
dining out, on the Nile. You go and return in your fe- 
lucca, as if it were a carriage; and your entertainers sum- 
mon you by firing a dinner gun, instead of sounding a 
gong. Wise people who respect the feelings of their cooks 
fire a dressing gun as well; for watches soon differ in a 
hopeless way for want of the church clock to set them by, 
and it is always possible that host and guest may be an 
hour or two apart in their reckoning. 

The customary guns having therefore been fired and 
the party assembled, we sat down to one of cook Beda- 
wee's prodigious banquets. Not, however, till the plum- 
pudding, blazing demoniacally, appeared upon the scene, 
did any of us succeed in believing that it was really Christ- 
mas day. 

Nothing could be prettier or gayer than the spectacle 
that awaited us when we rose from table. A hundred and 
fifty colored lanters outlined the boat from end to end, 
sparkled up the masts, and cast broken reflections in the 
moving current. The upper-deck, hung with flags and partly 
closed in with awnings, looked like a bower of palms. The 
stars and the crescent moon shone overhead. Dim outlines 
of trees and headlands, and a vague perspective of gleam- 
ing river, were visible in the distance; while a light gleamed 
now and then in the direction of the village, or a dusky 
figure flitted along the bank. 

Meanwhile, there was a sound of revelry by night; for 
our sailors had invited the Bagstones' crew to unlimited 
coffee and tobacco, and had quite a large party on the lower 
deck. They drummed, they sang, they danced, they 
dressed up, improvised a comic scene, and kept their audi- 
ence in a roar. Reis Hassan did the honors. George, 
Talhamy and the maids sat apart at the second table and 
sipped their coffee genteelly. We looked on and applauded. 
At ten o'clock a pan of magnesium powder was burned, 


and our fantasia ended with a blaze of light, like a pan- 

In Egypt, by the way, any entertainment which is en- 
livened by music, dancing, or fire-works is called a fan- 

And now, sometimes sailing, sometimes tracking, some- 
times punting, we go on day by day, making what speed 
we can. Things do not, of course, always fall out exactly 
as one would have them. The wind too often fails when 
we most need it, and gets up when there is something to 
be seen on shore. Thus, after a whole morning of track- 
ing, we reach Beni Hassan at the moment when a good 
breeze has suddenly filled our sails for the first time in 
forty-eight hours; and so, yielding to counsels which we 
afterward deplored, we pass on with many a longing look 
at the terraced doorways pierced along the cliffs. At 
Rhoda, in the same way, we touch for only a few minutes 
to post and inquire for letters, and put off till our return 
the inland excursion to Dayr el Nakhl, where is to be 
seen the famous painting of the Colossus on the Sledge. 
But sights deferred are fated sometimes to remain unseen, 
as we found by and by to our exceeding loss and regret. 

Meanwhile, the skies are always cloudless, the days 
warm, the evenings exquisite. We of course live very 
much in the open air. When there is no wind, we land 
and take long walks by the river side. When on board, 
we sketch, write letters, read Champollion, Bunsen, and 
Sir Gardner Wilkinson: and work hard at Egyptian dy- 
nasties. The sparrows and water-wagtails perch familiarly 
on the awnings and hop about the deck; the cocks and 
hens chatter, the geese cackle, the turkeys gobble in their 
coops close by; and our sacrificial sheep, leading a solitary 
life in the felucca, conies baaing in the rear. Sometimes 
we have as many as a hundred chickens on board (to say 
nothing of pigeons and rabbits) and two or even three 
sheep in the felucca. The poultry-yard is railed off, how- 
ever, at the extreme end of the stern, so that the creatures 
are well away from the drawing-room; and when we moor 
at a suitable place, they are let out for a few hours to peck 

about the banks and enjoy their liberty. L and the little 

lady feed these hapless prisoners with breakfast-scraps 
every morning, to the profound amusement of the steers- 
man, who, unable to conceive any other motive, imagines 
they are fatting them for the table. 


Such is our Noah's ark life — pleasant, peaceful and 
patriarchal. Even on days when there is little to see and 
nothing to do it is never dull. Trifling incidents which 
have for us the excitement of novelty are continually oc- 
curring. Other dahabeeyahs, their flags and occupants, are 
a constant source of interest. Meeting at mooring-places 
for the night, we now and then exchange visits. Passing 
each other by day we dip ensigns, fire salutes, and punc- 
tiliously observe the laws of maritime etiquette. Some- 
times a Cook's excursion steamer hurries by crowded with 
tourists; or a government tug towing three or four great 
barges closely packed with wretched-looking, half-naked 
fellaheen bound for forced labor on some new railway or 
canal. Occasionally we pass a dahabeeyah sticking fast 
upon a sand-bank; and sometimes we stick on one ourselves. 
Then the men fly to their punting poles or jump into the 
river like water-dogs, and, grunting in melancholy cadence, 
shove the boat off with their shoulders. 

The birds, too, are new, and we are always looking out 
for them. Perhaps we see a top-heavy pelican balancing 
his huge yellow bill over the edge of the stream and fishing 
for his dinner — or a flight of wild geese trailing across the 
sky toward sunset — or a select society of vultures perched 
all in a row upon a ledge of rock and solemn as the bench 
of bishops. Then there are the herons who stand on one 
leg and doze in the sun; the strutting hoopoes with their 
legendary top-knots; the blue and green bee-eaters hover- 
ing over the uncut dura. The pied kingfisher, black and 
white like a magpie, sits fearlessly under the bank and 
never stirs, though the tow-rope swings close above his 
head and the dahabeeyah glides within a few feet of the 
shore. The paddy-birds whiten the sand-banks by hun- 
dreds and rise in a cloud at our approach. The sacred 
hawk, circling overhead, utters the same sweet, piercing, 
melancholy note that the Pharaohs listened to of old. 

The scenery is for the most part of the ordinary Nile 
pattern; and for many a mile we see the same things over 
and over again — the level bank shelving down steeply to 
the river; the strip of cultivated soil, green with maize or 
tawny with dura; the frequent mud-village and palm-grove; 
the deserted sugar factory with its ungainly chimney and 
shattered windows; the water-wheel slowly revolving with 
its necklace of pots; the shaduf worked by two brown 


athletes; the file of laden camels; the desert, all sand-hills 
and sand-plains, with its background of mountains; the 
long reach and the gleaming sail ahead. Sometimes, how- 
ever, as at Kom Ah mar, we skirt the ancient brick mounds 
of some forgotten city, with fragments of arched founda- 
tions, and even of walls and doorways, reaching down to 
the water's edge; or, sailing close under ranges of huge 
perpendicular cliffs, as at Gebel Abufayda, startle the cor- 
morants from their haunts, and peer as we pass into the 
dim recesses of many a rock-cut tomb excavated just above 
the level of the inundation. 

This Gebel Abufayda has a bad name for sudden winds; 
especially at the beginning and end of the range, where 
the Nile bends abruptly and the valley opens out at right 
angles to the river. It is fine to see Rei's Hassan, as we 
approach one of the worst of these bad bits — a point where 
two steep ravines divided by a bold headland command the 
passage like a pair of grim cannon, and rake it with blasts 
from the northeastern desert. Here the current, flowing 
deep and strong, is met by the wind and runs high in 
crested waves. Our little captain, kicking off his shoes, 
himself springs up the rigging and there stands silent and 
watchful. The sailors, ready to shift our mainsail at the 
word of command, cling some to the shoghool* and some 
to the end of the yard ; the boat tears on before the wind ; 
the great bluff looms up darker and nearer. Then comes 
a breathless moment. Then a sharp, sudden word from 
the little man in the main rigging ; a yell and a whoop 
from the sailors; a slow, heavy lurch of the flapping sail; and 
the corner is turned in safety. 

The cliffs are very fine ; much loftier and less uniform 
than at Gebel et Tayr ; rent into strange forms, as of 
sphinxes, cheesewrings, towers, and bastions ; honey- 
combed with long ranges of rock-cut tombs ; and under- 
mined by water-washed caverns in which lurk a few linger- 
ing crocodiles. If at Gebel et Tayr the rock is worn into 
semblances of arabesque ornamentation, here it looks as if 
inscribed all over with mysterious records in characters 
not unlike the Hebrew. Records they are, too, of pre- 
historic days — chronicles of his own deeds carved by the 
great god Nile himself, the Hapimu of ancient time — but 

*Arabic — shoghool : a rope by which the mainsail is regulated. 


the language in which they are written has never been 
spoken by man. 

As for the rock-cut tombs of Gebel Abufayda, they must 
number many hundreds. For nearly twelve miles the 
range runs parallel to the river, and throughout that 
distance the face of the cliffs is pierced with innumerable 
doorways. Some are small and square, twenty or thirty 
together, like rows of port-holes. Others are isolated. 
Some are cut so high up that they must have been 
approached from above; others again come close upon the 
level of the river. Some of the doorways are faced to rep- 
resent jambs and architraves ; some, excavated laterally, 
appear to consist of a series of chambers, and are lit from 
without by small windows cut in the rock. One is 
approached by a flight of rough steps leading up from the 
water's edge; and another, hewn high in the face of the 
cliff, just within the mouth of a little ravine, shows a 
simple but imposing facade supported by four detached 
pillars. No modern travelers seem to visit these tombs ; 
while those of the old school, as Wilkinson, Champollion, 
etc., dismiss them with a few observations. Yet, with the 
single exception of the mountains behind Thebes, there is 
not, I believe, any one spot in Egypt which contains such 
a multitude of sepulchral excavations. Many look, indeed, 
as if they might belong to the same interesting and early 
epoch as those of Beni Hassan. 

I may here mention that about half-way, or rather less 
than half-way, along the whole length of the range I 
observed two large hieroglyphed stelaa incised upon the 
face of a projecting mass of boldly rounded cliff at a 
height of perhaps a hundred and fifty feet above the river. 
These stelae, apparently royal ovals, and sculptured as 
usual side by side, may have measured from twelve to 
fifteen feet in height ; but in the absence of any near 
object by which to scale them, I could form but a rough 
guess as to their actual dimensions. The boat was just 
then going so fast that to sketch or take notes of the 
hieroglyphs was impossible. Before I could adjust my 
glass they were already in the rear ; and by the time I had 
called the rest of the party together they were no longer 

Coming back several months later, I looked for them 
again, but without success; for the intense midday sun was 


then pouring full upon the rocks, to the absolute oblitera- 
tion of everything like shallow detail. While watching 
vainly, however, for the stela?, I was compensated by the 
unexpected sight of a colossal bas-relief high up on the 
northward face of a cliff standing, so to say, at the corner 
of one of those little recesses or culs-de-sac which here and 
there break the uniformity of the range. The sculptural 
relief of this large subject was apparently very low ; but, 
owing to the angle at which it met the light, one figure, 
which could not have measured less than eighteen or 
twenty feet in height, was distinctly visible. I imme- 
diately drew L — — 's attention to the spot; and she not only 
discerned the figure without the help of a glass, but 
believed like myself that she could see traces of a second. 

As neither the stela? nor the bas-relief would seem to 
have been observed by previous travelers, I may add for the 
guidance of others that the round and tower-like rock 
upon which the former are sculptured lies about a mile to 
the southward of the sheik's tomb and palm-tree (a 
strikingly picturesque bit which no one can fail to notice), 
and a little beyond some very large excavations near the 
water's edge; while the bas-relief is to be found at a short 
distance below the Coptic convent and cemetery. 

Having for nearly twelve miles skirted the base of Gebel 
Abufayda — by far the finest panoramic stretch of rock 
scenery on this side of the second cataract — the Nile takes 
an abrupt bend to the eastward, and thence flows through 
many miles of cultivated flat. One coming to this sudden 
elbow the wind, which had hitherto been carrying us along 
at a pace but little inferior to that of a steamer, now struck us 
full on the beam and drove the boat to shore with such 
violence that all the steersman could do was just to run 
the Philas's nose into the bank and steer clear of some ten 
or twelve native cangias that had been driven in before us. 
The Bagstones rushed in next; and presently a large iron- 
built dahabeeyah, having come gallantly along under the 
cliffs with all sail set, was seen to make a vain struggle at 
the fatal corner, and then plunge headlong at the bank, 
like King Agib's ship upon the Loadstone Mountain. 

Imprisoned here all the afternoon, we exchanged visits 
of condolence with our neighbors in misfortune; had our 
ears nearly cut to pieces by the driving sand; and failed 
signally in the endeavor to take a walk onshore. Still the 


fury of the storm went on increasing. The wind howled; 
the river raced in turbid waves; the sand drove in clouds; 
and the face of the sky was darkened as if by a London 
fog. Meanwhile, one boat after another was hurled to 
shore, and before nightfall we numbered a fleet of some 
twenty odd craft, native and foreign. 

It took the united strength of both crews all next day to 
•warp the Philas and Bagstones across the river by means 
of a rope and an anchor; an expedient that deserves 
special mention not for its amazing novelty or ingenuity, 
but because our men declared it to be impracticable. Their 
fathers, they said, had never done it. Their fathers' 
fathers had never done it. Therefore it was impossible. 
Being impossible, why should they attempt it ? 

They did attempt it, however, and, much to their aston- 
ishment, they succeeded. 

It was, I think, toward the afternoon of this second 
day, when, strolling by the margin of the river, that we 
first made the acquaintance of that renowned insect, the 
Egyptian beetle. He was a very fine specimen of his race, 
nearly half an inch long in the back, as black and shiny as 
a scarab cut in jet, and busily engaged in the preparation 
of a large rissole of mud, which he presently began labo- 
riously propelling up the bank. We stood and watched 
him for some time, half in admiration, half in pity. His 
rissole was at least four times bigger than himself, and to 
roll it up that steep incline to a point beyond the level of 
next summer's inundation was a labor of Hercules for so 
small a creature. One longed to play the part of the Dens 
ex machina and carry it up the bank for him; but that 
would have been a denouement beyond his power of ap- 

We all know the old story of how this beetle lays its 
eggs by the river's brink; incloses them in a ball of moist 
clay; rolls the ball to a safe place on the edge of the desert; 
buries it in the sand; and when his time comes, dies con- 
tent, having provided for the safety of his successors. 
Hence his mythic fame; hence all the quaint symbolism 
that by degrees attached itself to his little person, and 
ended by investing him with a special sacredness which 
has often been mistaken for actual worship. Standing by 
thus, watching the movements of the creature, its untiring 
energy, its extraordinary muscular strength, its business- 

MIN1EII TO srUT. 91 

like devotion to the matter in hand, one sees how subtle a 
lesson the old Egyptian moralists had presented to them 
for contemplatation, and with how fine a combination of 
wisdom and poetry they regarded this little black scarab 
not only as an emblem of the creative and preserving 
power, but perhaps also of the immortality of the soul. 
As a type, no insect has ever had so much greatness thrust 
upon him. He became a hieroglyph, and stood for a word 
signifying both to be and to transform. His portrait was 
multiplied a million-fold; sculptured over the portals of 
temples; fitted to the shoulders of a god; engraved on 
gems; molded in pottery; painted on sarcophagi and the walls 
of tombs; worn by the living and buried with the dead. 

Every traveler on the Nile brings away a handful of the 
smaller scarabs, genuine or otherwise. Some may not partic- 
ularly care to possess them; yet none can help buying them, 
if only because other people do so, or to get rid of a trouble- 
some dealer, or to give to friends at home. I doubt, how- 
ever, if even the most enthusiastic scarab -fanciers really 
feel in all its force the symbolism attaching to these little 
gems, or appreciate the exquisite naturalness of their exe- 
cution, till they have seen the living beetle at its work. 

In Nubia, where the strip of cultivable land is generally 
but a few feet in breadth, the scarab's task is compara- 
tively light and the breed multiplies freely. But in 
Egypt he has often a wide plain to traverse with his burden, 
and is therefore scarce in proportion to the difficulty with 
which he maintains the struggle for existence. The scarab 
race in Egypt would seem indeed to have diminished very 
considerably since the days of the Pharaohs, and the time 
is not perhaps far distant when the naturalist will look in 
vain for specimens on this side of the first cataract. As 
far as my own experience goes, I can only say that I saw 
scores of these beetles during the Nubian part of the 
journey; but that to the best of my recollection this was 
the only occasion upon which I observed one in Egypt. 

The Nile makes four or five more great bends between 
Gebel Abufayda and Siut; passing Manafalut by the way, 
which town lies some distance back from the shore. All 
things taken into consideration — the fitful wind that came 
and went continually; the tremendous zigzags of the river; 
the dead calm which befell us when only eight miles 
from Siut; and the long day of tracking that followed, 


Avith the town in sight the whole way — we thought our- 
selves fortunate to get in hy the evening of the third day 
after the storm. These last eight miles are, however, for 
open, placid beauty, as lovely in their way as anything north 
of Thebes. The valley is here very wide and fertile ; the 
town, with its multitudinous minarets, appears first on one 
side and then on the other, according to the windings of 
the river; the distant pinky mountains look almost as 
transparent as the air or the sunshine; while the banks 
unfold an endless succession of charming little subjects, 
every one of which looks as if it asked to be sketched as 
we pass. A shadiif and a clump of palms — a triad of 
shaggy black buffaloes, up to their shoulders in the river, 
and dozing as they stand — a wide-spreading sycamore fig, 
in the shade of which lie a man and camel asleep — a fallen 
palm uprooted by the last inundation, with its fibrous 
roots yet clinging to the bank and its crest in the water — a 
group of sheiks' tombs with glistening white cupolas 
relieved against a background of dark foliage — an old dis- 
used water-wheel lying up sidewise against the bank like a 
huge teetotom, and garlanded with wild tendrils of a gourd — 
such are a few out of many bits by the way, which, if they 
offer nothing very new, at all events present the old 
material under fresh aspects, and in combination with a 
distance of such ethereal light and shade, and such opal- 
escent tenderness of tone, that it looks more like an air- 
drawn mirage than a piece of the world we live in. 

Like a mirage, too, that fairy town of Siut seemed 
always to hover at the same unattainable distance and after 
hours of tracking to be no nearer than at first. Some- 
times, indeed, following the long reaches of the river, we 
appeared to be leaving it behind; and although, as I have 
said, we had eight miles of hard work to get to it, I doubt 
whether it was ever more than three miles distant as the 
bird flies. It w r as late in the afternoon, however, when we 
turned the last corner; and the sun was already setting 
when the boat reached the village of Hamra, which is the 
mooring-place for Siut — Siut itself, with clustered cupolas 
and arrowy minarets, lying back in the plain at the foot 
of a great mountain pierced with tombs. 

Now, it was in the bond that our crew were to be allowed 
twenty-four hours for making and baking bread at Siut, 
Esneh and Assuan. No sooner, therefore, was the daha- 


beeyah moored than Reis Hassan and the steersman started 
away at full speed on two little donkeys to buy flour; while 
Mehemet Ali, one of our most active and intelligent 
sailors, rushed off to hire the oven. For here, as at Esneh 
and Assuan, there are large flour stores and public bake- 
houses for the use of sailors on the river, who make and 
bake their bread in large lots; cut it into slices ; dry it in 
the sun; and preserve it in the form of rusks for months 
together. Thus prepared, it takes the place of ship-biscuit; 
and it is so far superior to ship-biscuit that it neither 
molds nor breeds the maggot, but remains good and 
wholesome to the last crumb. 

Siut, frequently written Asyoot, is the capital of Middle 
Egypt and has the best bazaars of any town up the Nile. 
Its red and black pottery is famous throughout the coun- 
try; and its pipe-bowls (supposed to be the best in the 
east), being largely exported to Cairo, find their way not 
only to all parts of the Levant, but to every Algerine and 
Japanese shop in London and Paris. No lover of peasant 
pottery will yet have forgotten the Egyptian stalls in the 
ceramic gallery of the international exhibition of 1871. 
All those quaint red vases and lustrous black tazzas, all 
those exquisite little coffee services, those crocodile paper- 
weights, those barrel-shaped and bird-shaped bottles came 
from Siut. There is a whole street of such pottery here in 
the town. Your dahabeeyah is scarcely made fast before 
a dealer comes on board and ranges his brittle wares along 
the deck. Others display their goods upon the bank. 
But the best things are only to be had in the bazaars; and 
not even in Cairo is it possible to find Siut ware so choice 
in color, form and design as that which the two or three 
best dealers bring out, wrapped in soft paper, when a 
European customer appears in the market. 

Besides the street of pottery there is a street of red 
shoes; another of native and foreign stuffs; and the usual 
run of saddlers' shops, kebab stalls and Greek stores for 
the sale of everything in heaven or earth, from third-rate 
cognac to patent wax vestas. The houses are of plastered 
mud or sun-dried bricks, as at Minieh. The thoroughfares 
are dusty, narrow, unpaved and crowded, as at Minieh. The 
people are one-eyed, dirty and unfragrant, as at Minieh. The 
children's eyes are full of flies and their heads are covered with 
sores, as at Minieh. In short, it is Minieh over again on a 


larger scale; differing only in respect of its inhabitants, 
who, instead of being sullen, thievish and unfriendly, are 
too familiar to be pleasant, and the most unappeasable 
beggars out of Ireland. So our mirage turns to sordid 
reality, and Siut, which from afar off looked like the capi- 
tal of Dreamland, resolves itself into a big mud town, as 
ugly and ordinary as its fellows. Even the minarets, so 
elegant from a distance, betray for the most part but 
rough masonry and clumsy ornamentation when closely 
looked into. 

A lofty embanked road planted with fine sycamore figs 
leads from Hamra to Siut ; and another embanked road, 
leads from Siut to the mountain of tombs. Of the ancient 
Egyptian city no vestige remains, the modern town being 
built upon the mounds of the earlier settlement; but the 
City of the Dead — so much of it, at least, as was excavated 
in the living rock — survives, as at Memphis, to commem- 
orate the departed splendor of the place. 

We took donkeys next day to the edge of the desert and 
went up to the sepulchers on foot. The mountain, which 
looked a delicate salmon-pink when seen from afar, now 
showed bleached and arid and streaked with ocherous yel- 
low. Layer above layer, in beds of strongly marked strati- 
fication, it towered overhead; tier above tier, the tombs 
yawned, open-mouthed, along the face of the precipice. I 
picked up a fragment of the rock, and found it light, por- 
ous and full of little cells, like pumice. The slopes were 
strewn with stones, as well as witli fragments of mummy, 
shreds of mummy-cloth and human bones, all whitening 
and withering in the sun. 

The first tomb we came to was the so-called Stabl Antar 
— a magnificent but cruelly mutilated excavation, consisting 
of a grand entrance, a vaulted corridor, a great hall, two 
side chambers and a sanctuary. The ceiling of the cor- 
ridor, now smoke-blackened and defaced, has been richly 
decorated with intricate patterns in light green, white and 
buff, upon a ground of dark bluish-green stucco. The wall 
to the right on entering is covered with a long hieroglyphic 
inscription. In the sanctuary vague traces of seated fig- 
ures, male and female, with lotus blossoms in their hands, 
are dimly visible. Two colossal warriors incised in out- 
line upon the leveled rock — the one very perfect, the other 
hacked almost out of recognition — stand on each side of 


the huge portal. A circular hole in the threshold marks 
the spot where the great door once worked upon its pivot; 
and a deep pit, now partially filled in with rubbish, leads 
from the center of the hall to some long-rifled vault deep 
down in the heart of the mountain. Wilful destruction 
has been at work on every side. The wall-sculptures have 
been defaced — the massive pillars that once supported the 
superincumbent rock have been quarried away — the interior 
is heaped high with debris. Enough is left, however, to 
attest the antique stateliness of the tomb; and the hiero- 
glyphic inscription remains almost intact to tell its age and 

This inscription (erroneously entered in Murray's Guide 
as uncopied, but interpreted by Brugsch, who published 
extracts from it as far back as 1862) shows the excavation 
to have been made for one Hepoukefa orHaptefa, nomarch 
of the Lycopolite nome and the chief priest of the jackal 
god of Siut.* It is also famous among scientific students 
for certain passages which contain important information 
regarding the intercalary days of the Egyptian calendar. f 
We observed that the full-length figures on the jambs of 
the doorway appeared to have been incised, filled in with 
stucco and then colored. The stucco had for the most 
part fallen out, though enough remained to show the style 
of the work. J 

From this tomb to the next we crept by way of a pas- 
sage tunneled in the mountain, and emerged into a spacious, 
quadrangular grotto, even more dilapidated than the first. 
It had been originally supported by square pillars left 
standing in the substance of the rock; but, like the pillars 
in the tomb of Hepoukefa, they had been hewn away in 
the middle and looked like stalactite columns in process of 

* The known inscriptions in the tomb of Haptefa have recently 
been recopied, and another long inscription, not previously tran- 
scribed, has been copied and translated, by Mr. F. Llewellyn Griffith, 
acting for the Egypt exploration fund. Mr. Griffith has for the 
first time fixed the date of this famous tomb, which was made dur- 
ing the reign of Usertesen I, of the twelth dynasty. [Note to 
second edition.] 

f See " Recueil des Monuments Egyptiens," Brugsch. Part I. 
Planche xi. Published 1862. 

\ Some famous tombs of very early date, enriched with the same 
kind of inlaid decoration, are to be seen at Meydum, near the base of 
Mej'duui pyramid. 


formation. For the rest, two half-filled pits, a broken 
sarcophagus and a few painted hieroglyphs upon a space of 
stuccoed wall were all that remained. 

One would have liked to see the sepulcher in which 
Ampere, the brilliant and eager disciple of Champollion, 
deciphered the ancient name of Siut; but since he does not 
specify the cartouche by which it could be identified, one 
might wander about the mountain for a week without 
being able to find it. Having first described the Stabl 
An tar, he says: " In another grotto I found twice over the 
name of the city written in hieroglyphic characters, Qi-ou-t. 
This name forms part of an inscription which also contains 
an ancient royal cartouche; so proving that the present 
name of the city dates back to Pharaonic times."* 

Here, then, we trace a double process of preservation. 
This town, which in the ancient Egyptian was written 
Ssout, became Lycopolis under the Greeks; continued to 
be called Lycopolis throughout the period of Roman rule 
in Egypt; reverted to its old historic name under the 
Copts of the middle ages, who wrote it Sioout; and sur- 
vives in the Asyoot of the Arab fellah. Nor is this by any 
means a solitary instance. Khemmis in the same way be- 
came Panopolis, reverted to the Coptic Chmin, and to this 
day as Ekhmim perpetuates the legend of its first founda- 
tion. As with these fragments of the old tongue, so with 
the race. Subdued again and again by invading hordes; 
intermixed for centuries together with Phoenician, Persian, 
Greek, Roman and Arab blood, it fuses these heterogeneous 
elements in one common mold, reverts persistently to the 
early type and remains Egyptian to the last. So strange 
is the tyranny of natural forces. The sun and soil of 
Egypt demand one special breed of men, and will tolerate 
no other. Foreign residents cannot rear children in the 
country. In the Isthmus of Suez, which is considered the 
healthiest part of Egypt, an alien population of twenty 
thousand persons failed in the course of ten years to rear 
one infant born upon the soil. Children of an alien father 
and an Egyptian mother will die off in the same way in 
early infancy, unless brought up in the simple native 
fashion. And it is affirmed of the descendants of mixed 

* "Voyage en Egypte et en Nubie," by J. J. Ampere. The car- 
touche may perhaps be that of Rakameri, mentioned by Brugsck; 
" Histoire d'Egypte," chap, vi., first edition. 


marriages, that after the third generation the foreign blood 
seems to be eliminated, while the traits of the race are 
restored to their original purity. 

These are but a few instances of the startling con- 
servatism of Egypt — a conservatism which interested me 
particularly, and to which I shall frequently have occasion 
to return. 

Each nome or province of ancient Egypt had its sacred 
animals; and Suit was called Lycopolis by the Greeks* 
because the wolf (now almost extinct in the land) was there 
held in the same kind of reverence as the cat at Bubastis, 
the crocodile at Ombos, and the lion at Leontopolis. 
Mummy-wolves are, or used to be, found in the smaller 
tombs about the mountain, as well as mummy-jackals; 
Anubis, the jackal-headed god, being the presiding deity 
of the district. A mummied jackal from this place, curi- 
ously wrapped in striped bandages, is to be seen in the first 
Egyptian room at the British Museum. 

But the view from the mountain above Siut is finer than 
its tombs and more ancient than its mummies. Seen from 
within the great doorway of the second grotto, it looks 
like a framed picture. For the foreground, we have a 
dazzling slope of limestone debris; in the middle distance, 
a wide plain clothed with the delicious tender green of 
very yourgcorn; farther away yet, the cupolas and minarets 
of Siut rising from the midst of a belt of palm-groves; be- 
yond these again, the molten gold of the great river glit- 
tering away, coil after coil, into the far distance; and all 
along the horizon the everlasting boundary of the desert. 
Large pools of placid water left by the last inundation lie 
here and there, like lakes amid the green. A group of 
brown men are wading yonder with their nets. A funeral 
comes along the embanked road — the bier carried at a 
rapid pace on men's shoulders and covered with a red 
shawl; the women taking up handfuls of dust and scatter- 
ing it upon their heads as they walk. We can see the dust 
flying and hear their shrill wail borne upon the breathless 
air. The cemetery toward which they are going lies round 
to the left, at the foot of the mountain — a wilderness of 
little white cupolas, with here and there a tree. Broad 

* The Greeks translated the sacred names of Egyptian places; the 
Copts adopted the civil names. 


spaces of shade sleep under the spreading sycamores by the 
road side; a hawk cries overhead; and Siut, bathed in the 
splendor of the morning sun, looks as fairy-like as ever. 

Lepsius is reported to have said that the view from this 
hillside was the finest in Egypt. But Egypt is a long 
country and questions of precedence are delicate matters to 
deal with. It is, however, a very beautiful view; though 
most travelers who know the scenery about Thebes and the 
approach to Assuan would hesitate, I should fancy, to give 
the preference to a landscape from which the nearer 
mountains are excluded by the position of the spectator. 

The tombs here, as in many other parts of Egypt, are 
said to have been largely appropriated by early Christian 
anchorites during the reigns of the later Roman emperors; 
and to these recluses may perhaps be ascribed the legend 
that makes Lycopolis the abode of Joseph and Mary during 
the years of their sojourn in Egypt. It is, of course, but a 
legend and wholly improbable. If the holy family ever 
journeyed into Egypt at all, which certain Biblical critics 
now hold to be doubtful, they probably rested from their 
wanderings at some town not very far from the eastern 
border — as Tanis, or Pithom, or Bubastis. Siut would, at 
all events, lie at least two hundred and fifty miles to the 
southward of any point to which they might reasonably 
be supposed to have penetrated. 

Still, one would like to believe a story that laid the 
scene of our Lord's childhood in the midst of this beautiful 
and glowing Egyptian pastoral. With what a profound 
and touching interest it would invest the place ! With 
what different eyes we should look down upon a landscape 
which must have been dear and familiar to Him in all its 
details and which, from the nature of the ground, must 
have remained almost unchanged from His day to ours! 
The mountain with its tombs, the green corn-flats, the 
Nile and the desert, looked then as they look now. It is 
only the Moslem minarets that are new. It is only the 
pylons and sanctuaries of the ancient worship that have 
passed away. 




We started from Suit with a couple of tons of new 
brown bread on board, which, being cut into slices and 
laid to dry in the sun, was speedily converted into rusks 
and stored away in two huge lockers on the upper deck. 
The sparrows and water-wagtails had a good time while the 
drying went on; but no one seemed to grudge the toll they 

"We often had a " big wind " now; though it seldom 
began to blow before ten or eleven a.m., and generally fell 
at sunset. Now and then, when it chanced to keep up, 
and the river was known to be free from shallows, we went 
on sailing through the night; but this seldom happened, 
and, when it did happen, it made sleep impossible — so that 
nothing but the certainty of doing a great many miles 
between bedtime and breakfast could induce us to put np 
with it. 

We had now been long enough afloat to find out that we 
had almost always one man on the sick list, and were 
therefore habitually short of a hand for the navigation of 
the boat. There never were such fellows for knocking 
themselves to pieces as our sailors. They were always 
bruising their feet, wounding their hands, getting sun- 
strokes, and whitlows, and sprains, and disabling them- 
selves in some way. L , with her little medicine chest 

and her roll of lint and bandages, soon had a small but 
steady practice, and might have been seen about the lower 
deck most mornings after breakfast, repairing these 
damaged Alis and Hassans. It was well for them that we 
carried " an experienced surgeon," for they were entirely 
helpless and despondent when hurt, and ignorant of the 
commonest remedies. Nor is this helplessness confined to 
natives of the* sailor and fellah class. The provincial pro- 
prietors and officials are to the full as ignorant, not only of 


the uses of such simple things as poultices or wet com- 
presses, but of the most elementary laws of health. 
Doctors there are none south of Cairo; and such is the 
general mistrust of state medicine, that when, as in the 
case of any widely spread epidemic, a medical officer is 
sent up the river by order of the government, half the 
people are said to conceal their sick, while the other half 
reject the remedies prescribed for them. Their trust in 
the skill of the passing European is, on the other hand, 
unbounded. Appeals for advice and medicine were con- 
stantly being made to us by both rich and poor; and there 
was something very pathetic in the simple faith with which 
they accepted any little help we were able to give them. 

Meanwhile L 's medical reputation, being confirmed by 

a few simple cures, rose high among the crew. They called 
her the hakim sitt (the doctor-lady); obeyed her directions 
and swallowed her medicines as reverently as if she 
were the college of surgeons personified; and showed their 
gratitude in all kinds of pretty, child-like ways — singing 
her favorite Arab song as they ran beside her donkey — 
searching for sculptured fragments whenever there were 
ruins to be visited — and constantly bringing her little gifts 
of pebbles and wild flowers. 

Above Siut, the picturesqueness of the river is confined 
for the most part to the eastern bank. We have almost 
always a near range of mountains on the Arabian side, and 
a more distant chain on the Libyan horizon. Gebel 
Sheik el Ra&ineh succeeds to Gebel Abufayda, and is 
followed in close succession by the cliffs of Gow, of Gebel 
Sheik el Hereedee, of Gebel Ayserat and Gebel Tukh — 
all alike rigid in strongly marked beds of level limestone 
strata; flat-topped and even, like lines of giant ramparts; 
and more or less pierced with orifices which we know to be 
tombs, but which look like loop-holes from a distance. 

Flying before the wind with both sails set, we see the 
rapid panorama unfold itself day after day, mile after mile, 
hour after hour. Villages, palm groves, rock-cut sepul- 
chers, flit past and are left behind. To-day we enter the 
region of the dom palm. To-morrow we pass the map- 
drawn limit of the crocodile. The cliffs advance, recede, 
open away into desolate-looking valleys, and show faint 
traces of paths leading to excavated tombs on distant 
heights. The -headland that looked shadowy in the dis- 


tance a couple of hours ago is reached and passed. The 
cargo-boat on which we have been gaining all the morning 
is outstripped and dwindling in the rear. Now we pass a 
bold bluff sheltering a sheik's tomb and a solitary dom 
palm — now an ancient quarry from which the stone has 
been cut out in smooth masses, leaving great halls, and 
corridors, and stages in the mountain side. At Gow,* the 
scene of an insurrection headed by a crazy dervish some ten 
years ago, we see, in place of a large and populous village, 
only a tract of fertile corn ground, a few ruined huts, and 
a group of decapitated palms. We are now skirting Ge- 
bel Sheik el Hereedee; here bordered by a rich margin of 
cultivated flat; yonder leaving space for scarce a strip of 
roadway between the precipice and the river. Then comes 
Raaineh, a large village of square mud towers, lofty and 
battlemented, with string-courses of pots for the pigeons 
— and later on, Girgeh, once the capital town of Middle 
Egypt, where we put in for half an hour to post and in- 
quire for letters. Here the Nile is fast eating away the 
bank and carrying the town by storm. A ruined mosque 
with pointed arches, roofless cloisters, and a leaning column 
that must surely have come to the ground by this time, 
stands just above the landing-place. A hundred years ago 
it lay a quarter of a mile from the river; ten years ago it 
was yet perfect ; after a few more inundations it will be 
swept away. Till that time comes, however, it helps to 
make Girgeh one of the most picturesque towns in Egypt. 
At Farshut we see the sugar-works in active operation — 
smoke pouring from the tall chimneys; steam issuing from 

* According to the account given in her letters by Lady Duff Gor- 
don, this dervish, who had acquired a reputation for unusal sanctity by 
repeating the name of Allah three thousand times every night for three 
years, believed that he had by these means rendered himself invul- 
nerable; and so, proclaiming himself the appointed slayer of Anti- 
christ, he stirred up a revolt among the villages bordering Gebel 
Sheik Hereedee, instigated an attack on an English dahabeeyah, 
and brought down upon himself and all that country-side the swift 
and summary vengeance of the government. Steamers with troops 
commanded by Fadl Pasha were dispatched up the river; rebels were 
shot; villages sacked; crops and cattle confiscated. The women and 
children of the place were then distributed among the neighboring 
hamlets; and Gow, which was as large a village as Luxor, ceased to 
exist. The dervish's fate remained uncertain. He was shot, accord- 
ing to some; and by others it was said that h e had esca ped into the 
desert under the protection of a tribe of^edouifts 1 , *' "■-"•^ 

/ 1 


the traps in the basement; cargo-boats unlading fresh su- 
gar-cane against the bank; heavily burdened Arabs trans- 
porting it to -the factory; bullock trucks laden with cane- 
leaf for firing. A little higher up, at Sahil Bajura on the 
opposite side of the river, we find the bank strewn for 
full a quarter of a mile with sugar-cane en masse. Hun- 
dreds of camels are either arriving laden with it, or going 
back for more — dozens of cargo-boats are drawn up to re- 
ceive it — swarms of brown fellaheen are stacking it on 
board for unshipment again at Farslmt. The camels 
snort and growl; the men shout; the overseers, in blue- 
fringed robes and white turbans, stalk to and fro, and keep 
the work going. The mountains here recede so far as to 
be almost out of sight, and a plain rich in sugar-cane and 
date-palms widens out between them and the river. 

And now the banks are lovely with an unwonted wealth 
of verdure. The young corn clothes the plain like a car- 
pet, while the yellow-tasseled mimosa, the feathery tama- 
risk, the doin and date palm, and spreading sycamore-fig, 
border the towing-path like garden trees beside a garden 

Farther on still, when all this greenery is left behind 
and the banks have again become flat and bare, we see to 
our exceeding surprise what seems to be a very large griz- 
zled ape perched on the top of a dust-heap on the western 
bank. The creature is evidently quite tame, and sits on its 
haunches in just that chilly, melancholy posture that the 
chimpanzee is wont to assume in his cage at the Zoological 
Gardens. Some six or eight Arabs, one of whom has dis- 
mounted from his camel for the purpose, are standing 
round and staring at him, much as the British public 
stand and stare at the specimen in the Begent's Park. 
Meanwhile a strange excitement breaks out among our 
crew. They crowd to the side; they shout; they gesticu- 
late; the captain salaams; the steersman waves his hand; 
all eyes are turned toward the shore. 

"Do you see Sheik Selim?" cries Talhamy, breath- 
lessly, rushing up from below. " There he is! Look at 
him! That is Sheik Selim !"_ 

And so we find out that it is not a monkey but a man — 
and not only a man, but a saint. Holiest of the holy, 
dirtiest of the dirty, white-pated, white-bearded, withered, 
bent, and knotted up, is the renowned Sheik Selim — he 


who, naked and unwashed, has sat on that same spot 
every day through summer heat and winter cold for the 
last fifty years ; never providing himself with food or 
water; never even lifting his hand to his mouth ; depend- 
ing on charity not only for his food hut for his feeding! 
He is not nice to look at, even hy this dim light, and at 
this distance; hut the sailors think him quite beautiful, and 
call aloud to him for his blessing as we go by. 

"It is not by our own will that we sail past, father!" 
they cry. "Fain would we kiss thy hand; but the wind 
blows and the merkeb (boat) goes, and we have no power 
to stay!" 

But Sheik Selim neither lifts his head nor shows any 
sign of hearing, and in a few minutes the mound on which 
he sits is left behind in the gloaming. 

At How, where the new town is partly built on the 
mounds of the old (Diospolis Parva), we next morning 
saw the natives transporting small boat-loads of ancient 
brick rubbish to the opposite side of the river, for the pur- 
pose of manuring those fields from which the early durra 
crop had just been gathered in. Thus, curiously enough, the 
mud left by some inundation of two or three thousand years 
ago comes at last to the use from which it was then diverted, 
and is found to be more fertilizing than the new deposit. 
At Kasr es Sayd, a little farther on, we came to one of the 
well-known "bad bits" — a place where the bed of the 
river is full of sunken rocks, and sailing is impossible. 
Here the men were half the day punting the dahabeeyah 
over the dangerous part, while we grubbed among the 
mounds of what was once the ancient city of Chenoboscion. 
These remains, which cover a large superficial area and 
consist entirely of crude brick foundations, are very inter- 
esting and in good preservation. We traced the ground- 
plans of several houses ; followed the passages by which 
they were separated ; and observed many small arches 
which seemed built on too small a scale for doors or win- 
dows, but for which it w r as difficult to account in any 
other way. Brambles and weeds were growing in these 
deserted inclosures ; while rubbish-heaps, excavated pits, 
and piles of broken pottery divided the ruins and made 
the work of exploration difficult. We looked in vain for the 
dilapidated quay and sculptured blocks mentioned in Wil- 
kinson's "General Yiew of Egypt"; but if the foundation- 


stones of the new sugar factory close against the mooring- 
place could speak, they would no doubt explain the mys- 
tery. We saw nothing, indeed, to show that Chenoboscion 
had contained any stone structures whatever, save the 
broken shaft of one small granite column. 

The village of Kasr es Sayd consists of a cluster of mud 
huts and a sugar factory; but the factory was idle that 
day and the village seemed half deserted. The view here 
is particularly fine. About a couple of miles to the 
southward, the mountains, in magnificent procession, come 
down again at right angles to the river, and thence reach 
away in long ranges of precipitous headlands. The plain, 
terminating abruptly against the foot of this gigantic 
barrier, opens back eastward to the remotest horizon — an 
undulating sea of glistening sand, bordered by a chaotic 
middle distance of mounded ruins. Nearest of all, a 
narrow foreground of cultivated soil, green with young 
crops and watered by frequent shadufs, extends along the 
river side to the foot of the mountains. A sheik's tomb 
shaded by a single dom palm is conspicuous on the bank, 
while far away, planted amid the solitary sands, we see a 
large Coptic convent with many cupolas; a cemetery full of 
Christian graves; and a little oasis of date palms indicating 
the presence of a spring. 

The chief interest of this scene, however, centers in the 
ruins; and these — looked upon from a little distance, 
blackened, desolate, half-buried, obscured every now and 
then, when the wind swept over them, by swirling clouds 
of dust — reminded us of the villages we had seen not two 
years before, half-overwhelmed and yet smoking, in the 
midst of a lava-torrent below Vesuvius. 

We now had the full moon again, making night more 
beautiful than day. Sitting on deck for hours after the 
sun had gone down, when the boat glided gently on with 
half-filled sail and the force of the wind was spent, we used 
to wonder if in all the world there was another climate in 
which the effect of moonlight was so magical. To say 
that every object far or near was visible as distinctly as by 
day, yet more tenderly, is to say nothing. It was not only 
form that was defined; it was not only light and shadow 
that were vivid — it was color that was present. Color 
neither deadened nor changed ; but softened, glowing, 
spiritualized, The amber sheen of the sand-island in the 


middle of the river, the sober green of the palm-grove, the 
little lady's turquoise-colored hood, were clear to the sight 
and relatively true in tone. The oranges showed through 

the bars of the crute like nuggets of pure gold. L 'a 

crimson shawl glowed with a warmer dye than it ever wore 
by day. The mountains were flushed as if in the light of 
sunset. Of all the natural phenomena that we beheld in 
the course of the journey, I remember none that surprised 
us more than this. We could scarcely believe at first that 
it was not some effect of afterg-low, or some miraculous 
aurora of the east. But the sun had nothing to do with 
that flush upon the mountains. The glow was in the 
stone, and the moonlight but revealed the local color. 

For some days before they came in sight we had been 
eagerly looking for the Theban hills; and now, after a 
night of rapid sailing, we woke one morning to find the 
sun rising on the wrong side of the boat, the favorable 
wind dead against us, and a picturesque chain of broken 
peaks upon our starboard bow. By these signs we knew 
that we must have come to the great bend in the river 
between How and Keneh, and that these new mountains, 
so much more varied in form than those of Middle Egypt, 
must be the mountains behind Denderah. They seemed 
to lie upon the eastern bank, but that was an illusion 
which the map disproved, and which lasted only till the 
great corner was fairly turned. To turn that corner, how- 
ever, in the teeth of wind and current, was no easy task, 
amTcost us two long days of hard tracking. 

At a point about ten miles below Denderah we saw 
some thousands of fellaheen at work amid clouds of sand 
upon the embankments of a new canal. They swarmed 
over the mounds like ants, and the continuous murmur of 
their voices came to us across the river like the humming 
of innumerable bees. Others, following the path along the 
bank, were pouring toward the spot in an unbroken stream. 
The Nile must here be nearly half a mile in breadth; but 
the engineers in European dress and the overseers with 
long sticks in their hands were plainly distinguishable by 
the help of a glass. The tents in which these officials were 
camping out during the progress of the work gleamed 
white among the palms by the river side. Such scenes 
must have been common enough in the old days when a 
conquering Pharaoh, returning from Libya or the land of 


Kush, sethis captives to raise a dyke, or excavate a lake, 
or quarry a mountain. The Israelites, building the mass- 
ive walls of Pithom and Rameses with bricks of their own 
making, must have presented exactly such a spectacle. 

That we were witnessing a case of forced labor could 
not be doubted. Those thousands yonder had most certainly 
been drafted off in gangs from hundreds of distant vil- 
lages, and were but little better off, for the time being, 
than the captives of the ancient empire. In all cases of 
forced labor under the present regime, however, it seems 
that the laborer is paid, though very insufficiently, for his 
unwilling toil; and that his captivity only lasts so long as 
the work for which he has been pressed remains in prog- 
ress. In some cases the term of service is limited to 
three or four months, at the end of which time the men 
are supposed to be returned in barges 'towed by goverment 
steam-tugs. It too often happens, nevertheless, that the 
poor souls are left to get back how they can; and thus 
many a husband and father either perishes by the way or 
is driven to take service in some village far from home. 
Meanwhile his wife and children, being scantily supported 
by the Sheik el Beled, fall into a condition of semi-serf- 
dom; and his little patch of ground, left unfilled through 
seed-time and harvest, passes after the next inundation 
into the hands of a stranger. 

But there is another side to this question of forced labor. 
Water must be had in Egypt, no matter at what cost. If 
the land is not sufficiently irrigated the crops fail and the 
nation starves. Now, the frequent construction of canals 
has from immemorial time been reckoned among the first 
duties of an Egyptian ruler; but it is a duty which cannot 
be performed without the willing or unwilling co-operation 
of several thousand workmen. Those who are best ac- 
quainted with the character and temperof the fellah maintain 
the hopelessness of looking to him for voluntary labor of 
this description. Frugal, patient, easily contented as he 
is, no promise of wages, however high, would tempt him 
from his native village. What to him are the needs of a 
district six or seven hundred miles away? His own shadtif 
is enough for his own patch, and so long as he can raise his 
three little crops a year neither he nor his family will 
starve. How, then, are these necessary public works to be 
carried out, unless by means of the corvee? M. About has 

S1UT 10 DENDERAH. 107 

put an ingenious summary of this "other-side " argument 
into the mouth of his ideal fellah. "It is not the em- 
peror," says Ahmed to the Frenchman, " who causes the 
rain to descend upon your land; it is the west wind — and 
the benefit thus conferred upon you exacts no penalty of 
manual labor. But in Egypt, where the rain from 
heaven falls scarcely three times in the year, it is the prince 
who supplies its place to us by distributing the waters of 
the Nile. This can only be done by the work of men's 
hands; and it is therefore to the interest of all that the 
hands of all should be at his disposal." 

We regarded it, I think, as an especial piece of good fort- 
une when we found ourselves becalmed next day within 
three or four miles of Denderah. Abydos comes first in 
order, according to the map; but then the temples lie 
seven or eight miles from the river, and, as we happened 
just thereabouts to be making some ten miles an hour, we 
put off the excursion till our return. Here, however, the 
ruins lay comparatively near at hand, and in such a posi- 
tion that we could approach them from below and rejoin 
our dahabeeyah a few miles higher up the river. So, leav- 
ing Rei's Hassan to track against the current, we landed at 
the first convenient point, and, finding neither donkeys nor 
guides at hand, took an escort of three or four sailors and 
set off on foot. 

The way was long, the day was hot, and we had only 
the map to go by. Having climbed the steep bank and 
skirted an extensive palm-grove, we found ourselves in a 
country without paths or roads of any kind. The soil, 
squared off as usual like a gigantic chess-board, was trav- 
ersed by hundreds of tiny water-channels, between which 
we had to steer our course as best we could. Presently the 
last belt of palms was passed — the plain, green with young 
corn and level as a lake, widened out at the foot of the 
mountains — and the temple, islanded in that sea of rip- 
pling emerald, rose up before us upon its platform of 
blackened mounds. 

It was still full two miles away; but it looked enor- 
mous — showing from this distance as a massive, low T - 
browed, sharply defined mass of dead-white masonry. The 
walls sloped in slightly toward the top ; and the facade 
appeared to be supported on eight square biers, with a 
large doorway in the center. If sculptured ornament, or 


cornice, or pictured legend enriched those walls, we were 
too far off to distinguish them. All looked strangely 
naked and solemn — more like a tomb than a temple. 

Nor was the surrounding scene less deathlike in its solitude. 
Not a tree, not a hut, not a living form broke the green 
monotony of the plain. Behind the temple, but divided 
from it by a farther space of mounded ruins, rose the 
mountains — pinky, aerial, with sheeny sand-drifts heaped 
in the hollows of their bare buttresses and spaces of soft 
blue shadow in their misty chasms. Where the range 
receded, a long vista of glittering desert opened to the 
Libyan horizon. 

Then as we drew nearer, coming by and by to a raised 
causeway which apparently connected the mounds with 
some point down by the river, the details of the temple 
gradually emerged into distinctness. We could now see 
the curve and under shadow of the cornice; and a small 
object in front of the facade, which looked at first sight 
like a monolithic altar, resolved itself into a massive gate- 
way, of the kind known as a single pylon. Nearer still, 
among some low outlying mounds, we came upon frag- 
ments of sculptured capitals and mutilated statues half- 
buried in rank grass — upon a series of stagnant niter-tanks 
and deserted workshops — upon the telegraph poles and 
wires which here come striding along the edge of the desert 
and vanish southward with messages for Nubia and the 

Egypt is the land of niter. It is found wherever a crude 
brick mound is disturbed or an antique stone structure de- 
molished. The Nile mud is strongly impregnated with it; 
and in Nubia we used to find it lying in thick talc-like 
flakes upon the surface of rocks far above the present level 
of the inundation. These tanks at Dendenih had been 
sunk, we are told, when the great temple was excavated by 
Abbas Pasha more than twenty years ago. The niter then 
found was utilized out of hand; washed and crystallized in 
the tanks; and converted into gunpowder in the adjacent 
Avorkshops. The telegraph wires are more recent intruders, 
and the work of the khedive; but one longed to put them 
out of sight, to pull down the gunpowder sheds, and to 
fill up the tanks with debris. For what had the arts of 
modern warfare or the wonders of modern science to do 
with Hathor, the Lady of Beauty and the Western Shades, 


the Nurse of Horns, the Egyptian Aphrodite, to whom 
yonder mountain of wrought stone and all these wastes 
were sacred? 

"We were by this time near enough to see that the square 
piers of the facade were neither square nor piers, but huge 
round columns with human-headed capitals; and that the 
walls, instead of being plain and tomb-like, were covered 
with an infinite multitude of sculptured figures. The 
pylon — rich with inscriptions and bas-reliefs, but disfigured 
by myriads of tiny wasps" nests, like clustered mud-bubbles 
— now towered high above our heads and led to a walled 
avenue cut direct through the mounds and sloping down- 
ward to the main entrance of the temple. 

Not, however, till we stood immediately under those 
ponderous columns, looking down upon the paved floor 
below and up to the huge cornice that projected overhead 
like the crest of an impending wave, did we realize the 
immense proportions of the building. Lofty as it looked 
from a distance, we now found that it was only the in- 
terior that had been excavated, and that not more than 
two-thirds of its actual height was visible above the 
mounds. The level of the avenue was, indeed, at its 
lowest part full twenty feet above that of the first great 
hall; and we had still a steep temporary staircase to go 
down before reaching the original pavement. 

The effect of the portico as one stands at the top of this 
staircase is one of overwhelming majesty. Its breadth, its 
height, the massiveness of its parts, exceed in grandeur all 
that one has been anticipating throughout the long two 
miles of approach. The immense girth of the columns, 
the huge screens which connect them, the ponderous 
cornice jutting overhead, confuse the imagination, and in 
the absence of given measurements* appear, perhaps, even 
more enormous than they are. Looking up to the archi- 
trave, we see a kind of Egyptian Panathenaic procession of 
carven priests and warriors, some with standards and some 
with musical instruments. The winged globe, depicted 
upon a gigantic scale in the curve of the cornice, seems to 

* Sir G. Wilkinson states the total length of the temple to be 
ninety three paces, or two hundred and twenty feet; and the width 
of the portico fifty paces. Murray gives no measurements; neither 
does Mariette Bey in his delightful little " Itineraire;" neither does 
Furgusson, nor Champollion, nor any other writer to whose works 
I have had access. 


hover above the central doorway. Hieroglyphs, emblems, 
strange forms of kings and gods, cover every foot of wall- 
space, frieze and pillar. Nor does this wealth of sur- 
face-sculpture tend in any way to diminish the general 
effect of size. It would seem, on the contrary, as if com- 
plex decoration were in this instance the natural comple- 
ment to simplicity of form. Every group, every inscription, 
appears to be necessary and in its place; an essential part of 
the building it helps to adorn. Most of these details are 
as perfect as on the day when the last workman went his 
way and the architect saw his design completed. Time 
has neither marred the surface of the stone nor blunted 
the work of the chisel. Such injury as they have sustained 
is from the hand of man; and in no country has the hand 
of man achieved more and destroyed more than in Egypt. 
The Persians overthrew the masterpieces of the Pharaohs; 
the Copts mutilated the temples of the Ptolemies and 
Caesars; the Arabs stripped the pyramids and carried- 
Memphis away piece-meal. Here at Denderah we have an 
example of Grseco-Egyptian work and early Christian 
fanaticism. Begun by Ptolemy XI,* and bearing upon its 

* The names of Augustus, Caligula, Tiberius, Doinitian, Claudius, 
and Nero are found in the royal ovals; the oldest being those of 
Ptolemy XI, the founder of the present edifice, which was, however, 
rebuilt upon the site of a succession of older buildings, of which the 
most ancient dated back as far as the reign of Khufu, the builder of 
the great pyramid. This fact, and the still more interesting fact 
that the oldest structure of all was believed to belong to the incon- 
ceivably remote period of the Horshesu, or " followers of Horus " 
(i. e. the petty chiefs, or princes, who ruled in Egypt before the 
foundation of the first monarchy), is recorded in the following re- 
markable inscription discovered by Mariette in one of the crypts con- 
structed in the thickness of the walls of the present temple. The 
first text relates to certain festivals to be celebrated in honor of 
I lathor, and states that all the ordained ceremonies had been performed 
by King Thothmes III (eighteenth dynasty) "in memory of his 
mother, Hathor of Denderah. And they found the great funda- 
mental rules of Denderah in ancient writing, written on goat-skin in 
the time of the followers of Horus. This was found in the inside of 
a brick wall during the reign of King Pepi (sixth dynasty)." In the 
same crypt, another and a more brief inscription runs thus: " Great 
fundamental rule of Denderah. Restorations done by Thothmes III, 
according to what was found in ancient writing of the time of King 
Khufu." Hereupon Mariette remarks: " The temple of Denderah is 
not, then, one of the most modern in Egypt, except in so far as it 
was constructed by one of the later Lagidae. Its origin is literally 
lost in the night of time." See "Denderah, Description Gfenerale," 
chap. i. pp. 55, 56. 



latest ovals the name and style of Nero, the present build- 
ing was still comparatively new when, in a.d. 379, the 
ancient religion 
was abolished by 
the edict of The- 
odosius. It was 
then the most 
gorgeous as well 
asthe most recent 
of all those larger 
temples built 
during the pros- 
perous foreign 
rule of the last 
seven hundred 
years. It stood, 
surrounded by 
groves of palm 
and acacia, with- 
in the precints 
of a vast in clos- 
ure, the walls of 
which, one thou- 
sand feet in 
length, thirty- 
five feet in 
height and fif- 
teen feet thick, 
are still traceable. 
A dromos, now 
buried u n d e r 
twenty feet of 
debris, led from 
the pylon to the 
portico. The py- 
lon is there still, 
a partial ruin ; 
but the temple, 
with its roof, its 
staircases and its 
secret treasure-crypts, is in all essential respects as per- 
fect as on the day when its splendor was given over to the 
spoilers. One can easily imagine how these spoilers sacked 



and ravaged all before them ; how they desecrated the 
sacred places and cast down the statues of the goddess and 
divided the treasures of the sanctuary. They did not, it 
is true, commit such wholesale destruction as the Persian 
invaders of nine hundred years before; but they were mer- 
ciless iconoclasts and hacked away the face of every figure 
within easy reach, both inside and outside the building. 

Among those which escaped, however, is the famous 
externa] bas-relief of Cleopatra on the back of the temple. 
This curious sculpture is now banked up with rubbish for 
its better preservation and can no longer be seen by 
travelers. It was, however, admirably photographed some 
years ago by Signor Beati; which photograph is faithfully 
reproduced in the annexed engraving. Cleopatra is here 
represented with a head-dress combining the attributes of 
three goddesses; namely, the vulture of Maut (the head of 
which is modeled in a masterly way), the horned disk of 
llathor and the throne of Isis. The falling mass below 
the head-dress is intended to represent hair dressed accord- 
ing to the Egyptian fashion, in an infinite number of small 
plaits, each finished off with an ornamental tag. The 
women of Egypt and Nubia wear their hair so to this day 
and unplait it, I am sorry to say, not oftener than once in 
every eight or ten weeks. The Nubian girls fasten each 
separate tail with a lump of Nile mud daubed over with 
yellow ocher ; but Queen Cleopatra's silken tresses were 
probably tipped with gilded wax or gum. 

It is difficult to know where decorative sculpture ends 
and portraiture begins in a work of this epoch. "We can- 
not even be certain that a portrait was intended; though 
the introduction of the royal oval in which the name of 
Cleopatra (Klaupatra) is spelled with its vowel sounds in 
full, would seem to point that way. If it is a portrait, then 
large allowance must be made for conventional treatment. 
The fleshiness of the features and the intolerable simper 
are common to every head of the Ptolemaic period. The 
ear, too, is pattern work, and the drawing of the figure is 
ludicrous. Mannerism apart, however, the face wants for 
neither individuality nor beauty. Cover the mouth, and 
you have an almost faultless profile. The chin and throat 
are also quite lovely; while the whole face, suggestive of 
cruelty, subtlety, and voluptuousness, carries with it an 
indefinable impression not oidy of portraiture, but of 


Tt, is not without something like a shock that one first 
sees the unsightly havoc wrought upon the Hathor- headed 
columns of the facade at Denderah. The massive folds of 
the head-gear are there ; the ears, erect and pointed like 
those of a heifer, are there; hut of the benignant face of 
the goddess not a feature remains. Ampere, describing 
these columns in one of his earliest letters from Egypt, 
speaks of them as being still " brilliant with colors that 
time had had no power to efface." Time, however, must 
have been unusually busy during the thirty years that have 
gone by since then; for though we presently found several 
instances of painted bas-reliefs in the small inner 
chambers, I do not remember to have observed any 
remains of color (save here and there a faint trace of 
yellow ocher) on the external decorations. 

Without, all was sunshine and splendor; within, all was 
silence and mystery. A heavy, death-like smell, as of 
long-imprisoned gases, met us on the threshold. By the 
half-light that strayed in through the portico we could see 
vague outlines of a forest of giant columns rising out of 
the gloom below and vanishing into the gloom above. 
Beyond these again appeared shadowy vistas of successive 
halls leading away into depths of impenetrable darkness. 
It required no great courage to go down those stairs and 
explore those depths with a party of fellow-travelers: but 
it would have been a gruesome place to venture into alone. 

Seen from within, the portico shows as a vast hall, fifty 
feet in height and supported on twenty-four Hathor- 
headed columns. Six of these, being engaged in the 
screen, form part of the facade, and are the same upon 
which we have been looking from without. By degrees, as 
our eyes become used to the twilight, we see here and there 
a capital which still preserves the vague likeness of a 
gigantic female face; while, dimly visible on every wall, 
pillar, and doorway, a multitude of fantastic forms — hawk- 
headed, ibis-headed, cow-headed, mitered, plumed, holding 
aloft strange emblems, seated on thrones, performing 
mysterious rites — seem to emerge from their places, like 
things of life. Looking up to the ceiling, now smoke- 
blackened and defaced, we discover elaborate paintings of 
scarabasi, winged globes, and zodiacal emblems divided by 
borders of intricate Greek patterns, the prevailing colors of 
which are verditer aud chocolate. Bauds of hieroglyphic 


inscriptions of royal ovals, of Hathor-heads of mitered 
hawks, of lion-headed chimeras, of divinities and kings in 
bas-relief, cover the shafts of the great columns from top 
to bottom; and even here, every accessible human face, 
however small, has been laboriously mutilated. 

• Bewildered at first sight of these profuse and mysterious 
decorations, we wander round and round; going on from 
the first hall to the second, from the second to the third; 
and plunging into deeper darkness at every step. We 
have been reading about these gods and emblems for 
weeks past — we have studied the plan of the temple 
beforehand; yet now that we are actually here, our book 
knowledge goes for nothing, and we feel as hopelessly 
ignorant as if we had been suddenly landed in a new world. 
Not till we have got over this first feeling of confusion — 
not till, resting awhile on the base of one of the columns, 
we again open out the plan of the building — do we begin to 
realize the purport of the sculptures by which we are 

The ceremonial of Egyptian worship was essentially pro- 
cessional. Herein we have the central idea of every 
temple and the key to its construction. It was bound to 
contain store-chambers in which were kept vestments, 
instruments, divine emblems, and the like; laboratories for 
the preparation of perfumes and unguents; treasuries for 
the safe custody of holy vessels and" precious offerings; 
chambers for the reception and purification of tribute in 
kind ; halls for the assembling and marshaling of priests 
and functionaries ; and, for processional purposes, cor- 
ridors, staircases, court-yards, cloisters, and vast inclosures 
planted with avenues of trees and surrounded by walls 
which hedged in with inviolable secrecy the solemn rites of 
the priesthood. 

In this plan, it will be seen, there is no provision made 
for anything in the form of public worship; but then an 
Egyptian temple was not a place for public worship. It 
was a treasure-house, a sacristy, a royal oratory, a place of 
preparation, of consecration, of sacerdotal privacy. There, 
in costly shrines, dwelt the divine images. There they 
were robed and unrobed; perfumed with incense; visited 
and worshiped by the king. On certain great days of the 
calendar, as on the occasion of the festival of the new 
year, or the panegyries of the local gods, these images 


were brought out, paraded along the corridors of the 
temple, carried round the roof, and borne with waving of 
banners, and chanting of hymns, and burning of incense, 
through the sacred groves of the inclosure. Probably 
none were admitted to these ceremonies save persons of 
royal or priestly birth. To the rest of the community, all 
that took place within those massy walls was enveloped in 
mystery. It may be questioned, indeed, whether the 
great mass of the people had any kind of personal religion. 
They may not have been rigidly excluded from the temple 
precincts, but they seem to have been allowed no partici- 
pation in the worship of the gods. If now and then, on 
high festival days, they beheld the sacred bark of the deity 
carried in procession round the temenos, or caught a 
glimpse of moving figures and glittering ensigns in the 
pillared dusk of the Hypostyle Hall, it was all they ever 
beheld of the solemn services of their church. 

The temple of Denderah consists of a portico; a hall of 
entrance; a hall of assembly; a third hall, which may be 
called the hall of the sacred boats ; one small ground-floor 
chapel; and upward of twenty side chambers of various 
sizes, most of which are totally dark. Each one of these 
halls and chambers bears the sculptured record of its use. 
Hundreds of tableaux in bas-relief, thousands of elaborate 
hieroglyphic inscriptions, cover every foot of available 
space on wall and ceiling and soffit, on doorway and 
column, and on the lining-slabs of passages and staircases. 
These precious texts contain, amid much that is mystical 
and tedious, an extraordinary wealth of indirect history. 
Here we find programmes of ceremonial observances; num- 
berless legends of the gods; chronologies of kings with 
their various titles ; registers of weights and measures; 
catalogues of offerings ; recipes for the pre]^aration of oils 
and essences ; records of repairs and restorations done to 
the temple; geographical lists of cities and provinces; 
inventories of treasure, and the like. The hall of assembly 
contains a calendar of festivals, and sets forth witli studied 
precision the rites to be performed on each recurring anni- 
versary. On the ceiling of the portico we find an astronom- 
ical zodiac ; on the walls of a small temple on the roof, 
the whole history of the resurrection of Osiris, together 
with the order of prayer for the twelve hours of the night, 
and a calendar of the festivals of Osiris in all the principal 


cities of Upper and Lower Egypt. Seventy years ago 
these inscriptions were the puzzle and despair of the 
learned ; but since modern science lias plucked out the 
heart of its mystery, the whole temple lies before us as an 
open volume filled to overflowing with strange and quaint 
and heterogeneous matter — a Talmud in sculptured stone.* 
Given such help as Mariette's hand-book affords, one can 
trace out most of these curious things and identify the 
uses of every hall and chamber throughout the building. 
The king, in his double character of Pharaoh and high 
priest, is the hero of every sculptured scene. Wearing 
sometimes the truncated crown of Lower Egypt, some- 
times the helmet-crown of Upper Egypt, and some- 
times the pschent, which is a combination of both, he 
figures in every tableau and heads every procession. Be- 
ginning with the sculptures of the portico, we see him 
arrive, preceded by his five royal standards. He wears his 
long robe; his sandals are on his feet; he carries his staff 
in his hand. Two goddesses receive him at the door and 
conduct him into the presence of Thoth, the ibis-headed, 
and Horns, the hawk-headed, who pour upon him a double 
stream of the waters of life. Thus purified, he is crowned 
by the goddesses of Upper and Lower Egypt, and by 
them consigned to the local deities of Thebes and 
Heliopolis, who usher him into the supreme presence of 
Hathor. He then presents various offerings and recites 
certain prayers ; whereupon the goddess promises him 
length of days, everlasting renown, and other good things. 
We next see him, always with the same smile and always in 
the same attitude, doing homage to Osiris, to Horns and 
other divinities. He presents them with flowers, wine, 
bread, incense; while they in return promise him life, joy, 
abundant harvests, victory, and the love of his people. 
These pretty speeches — chefs-d'oeuvre of diplomatic style 
and models of elegant flattery — are repeated over and over 
again in scores of hieroglyphic groups. Mariette, how- 
ever, sees in them something more than the language of 
the court grafted upon the language of the hierarchy; he 

* See Mariette's " Denderah," which contains the whole of these 
multitudinous inscriptions in one hundred and sixty-six plates; also 
a selection of some of the most interesting in Brugsch and Dii- 
michen's " Recueil de Monuments Egvptiens " and " Geographische 
Inschriften," 1862, 1863, 1865 and 1866. 


detects the language of the schools, and discovers in the 
utterances here ascribed to the king and the gods a reflec- 
tion of that contemporary worship of the beautiful, the 
good, and the true, which characterized the teaching of 
the Alexandrian Museum.* 

Passing on from the portico to the hall of assembly, 
we enter a region of still dimmer twilight, beyond which 
all is dark. In the side-chambers, where the heat is 
intense and the atmosphere stifling, we can see only by the 
help of lighted candles. These rooms are about twenty 
feet in length; separate, like prison cells; and perfectly 
dark. The sculptures which cover their walls are, how- 
ever, as numerous as those in the outer halls, and indicate 
in each instance the purpose for which the room was de- 
signed. Thus in the laboratories we find bas-reliefs of 
flasks and vases and figures carrying perfume bottles of 
the familiar aryballos form; in the tribute chambers, offer- 
ings of lotus lilies, wheat sheaves, maize, grapes and 
pomegranates. In the oratories of Isis, Amen, and Sekhet, 
representations of these divinities enthroned, and receiv- 
ing the homage of the king ; while in the treasury, both 
king and queen appear laden with precious gifts of caskets, 
necklaces, pectoral ornaments, sistrums, and the like. It 
would seem that the image-breakers had no time to spare 
for these dark cells; for here the faces and figures are un- 
mutilated, and in some places even the original coloring 

* Hathor (or more correctly Hat-hor, i. e. the abode of Horus), is 
not merely tbe Apbrodite of ancient Egypt; sbe is tbe pupil of tbe 
eye of tbe sun; sbe is goddess of tbat beneficent planet whose rising 
heralds the waters of the inundation; sbe represents the eternal 
youth of nature, and is the direct personification of the beautiful. 
She is also goddess of truth. "I offer the truth to thee, O God- 
dess of Denderah!" says the king, in one of the inscriptions of tbe 
sanctuary of the sistrum; " for truth is thy work, and thou thyself 
art truth." Lastly, her emblem is tbe sistrum, and the sound of the 
sistrum, according to Plutarch, was supposed to terrify and expel 
Typhon (tbe evil principle); just as in mediaeval times the ringing 
of church-bells was supposed to scare Beelzebub and bis crew. 
From this point of view, the sistrum becomes typical of the triumph 
of good over evil. Mariette, in his analysis of the decorations and 
inscriptions of this temple, points out bow the builders were influ- 
enced by the prevailing philosophy of the age, and how they veiled 
the Platonism of Alexandria beneath the symbolism of the ancient 
religion. The Hat-bor of Denderah was in fact worshiped in a sense 
unknown to tbe Egyptians of pre-Ptolemaic times. 


remains in excellent preservation. The complexion of the 
goddesses, for instance, is painted of a light buff; the 
king's skin is dark-red; that of Amen, blue. Isis wears a 
rich robe of the well-known Indian pine-pattern; Sekhet 
figures in a many colored garment curiously diapered ; 
Amen is clad in red and green chain armor. The skirts 
of the goddesses are inconceivably scant; but they are rich 
in jewelry, and their head-dresses, necklaces, and bracelets 
are full of minute and interesting detail. In one of the 
four oratories dedicated to Sekhet, the king is depicted in 
the act of offering a pectoral ornament of so rich and 
elegant a design that, had there been time and daylight to 
spare, the writer would fain have copied it. 

In the center room at tiie extreme end of the temple, 
exactly opposite the main entrance, lies the oratory of 
llathor. This dark chamber, into which no ray of day- 
light has ever penetrated, contains the sacred niche, the 
holy of holies, in which was kept the great golden sistrum 
of the goddess. The king alone was privileged to take out 
that mysterious emblem. Having done so, he inclosed it 
in a costly shrine, covered it with a thick veil, and placed 
it in one of the sacred boats of which we find elaborate 
representations sculptured on the walls of the hall in 
which they were kept. These boats, which were con- 
structed of cedar wood, gold, and silver, were intended to 
be hoisted on wrought poles, and so carried in procession 
on the shoulders of the priests. The niche is still there — 
a mere hole in the hall, some three feet square and about 
eight feet from the ground. 

Thus, candle in hand, we make the circuit of these 
outer chambers. In each doorway, besides the place cut 
out for the bolt, we find a circular hole drilled above and a 
quadrant-shaped hollow below, where once upon a time the 
pivot of the door turned in its socket. The paved floors, 
torn up by treasure-seekers, are full of treacherous holes 
and blocks of broken stone. The ceilings are very lofty. 
In the corridors a dim twilight reigns; but all is pitch-dark 
beyond these gloomy threshelds. Hurrying along by the 
light of a few flaring candles, one cannot but feel oppressed 
by the strangeness and awful ness of the place. We speak 
with bated breath, and even our chattering x\rabs for once 
are silent. The very air tastes as if it had been imprisoned 
here for centuries. 


Finally, we take the staircase on the northern side of the 
temple, in order to go up to the roof. Nothing that we 
have yet seen surprises and delights us so much, I think, 
as this staircase. 

We have hitherto been tracing in their order all the 
preparations for a great religious ceremony. We have seen 
the king enter the temple; undergo the symbolical purifi- 
cation; receive the twofold crown; and say his prayers to 
each divinity in turn. We have followed him into the 
laboratories, the oratories, and the holy of holies. All that 
he has yet done, however, is preliminary. The procession 
is yet to come, and here we have it. Here, sculptured on 
the walls of this dark staircase, the crowning ceremony of 
Egyptian worship is brought before our eyes in all its 
details. Here, one by one, we have the standard-bearers, 
the hierophants with the offerings, the priests, the whole 
long, wonderful procession, with the king marching at its 
head. Fresh and uninjured, as if they had but just left 
the hand of the sculptor, these figures — each in his habit 
as he lived, each with his foot upon the step — mount with 
us as we mount, and go beside us all the way. Their 
attitudes are so natural, their forms so roundly cut, that 
one could almost fancy them in motion as the lights flicker 
by. Surely there must be some one weird night in the 
year when they step out from their places and take up the 
next verse of their chanted hymn, and, to the sound of 
instruments long mute and songs long silent, pace the 
moonlit roof in ghostly order ! 

The sun is already down and the crimson light has 
faded, when at length we emerge upon that vast terrace. 
The roofing-stones are gigantic. Striding to and fro over 
some of the biggest, our idle man finds several that 
measure seven paces in length by four in breadth. In 
yonder distant corner, like a little stone lodge in a vast 
court-yard, stands a small temple supported on Hathor- 
headed columns; while at the eastern end, forming a second 
and loftier stage, rises the roof of the portico. 

Meanwhile, the after-glow is fading. The mountains are 
yet clothed in an atmosphere of tender half-light; but 
mysterious shadows are fast creeping over the plain, and 
the mounds of the ancient city lie at our feet, confused 
and tumbled, like the waves of a dark sea. How high it 
is here— how lonely— how silent! Hark that thin, plaintive 


cry! It is the wail of a night-wandering jackal. See how 
dark it is yonder, in the direction of the river! Quick, 
quick! We have lingered too long. We must be gone at 
once; for we are already benighted. 

We ought* to have gone down by way of the opposite 
staircase (which is lined with sculptures of the descending 
procession) and out through the temple; but there is no 
time to do anything but scramble down by a breach in the 
wall at a point where the mounds yet lie heaped against the 
south side of the building. And now the dusk steals on so 
rapidly that before we reach the bottom we can hardly see 
where to tread. The huge side wall of the portico seems 
to tower above us to the very heavens. We catch a glimpse 
of two colossal figures, one lion-headed and the other head- 
less, sitting outside with their backs to the temple. Then, 
making with all speed for the open plain, we clamber over 
scattered blocks and among shapeless mounds. Presently 
night overtakes us. The mountains disappear; the temple 
is blotted out; and we have only the faint starlight to 
guide us. We stumble on, however, keeping all close to- 
gether; firing a gun every now and then, in the hope of 
being heard by those in the boats; and as thoroughly 
and undeniably lost as the babes in the wood. 

At last, just as some are beginning to knock up, and all 
to despair, Talhamy fires his last cartridge. An answering 
shot replies from near by; a wandering light appears in 
the distance; and presently a whole bevy of dancing lan- 
terns and friendly brown faces come gleaming out from 
among a plantation of sugar-canes to welcome and guide 
us home. Dear, sturdy, faithful little Rei's Hassan, honest 
Khalifeh, laughing Salame, gentle Mehemet Ali, and 
Musa, " black but comely" — they were all there. What a 
shaking of hands there was — what a gleaming of white 
teeth — what a shower of mutually unintelligible congratu- 
lations! For my own part, I may say with truth that I 
never was much more rejoiced at a meeting in my life. 




Coming on deck the third morning after leaving Den- 
derah, we found the dahabeeyah decorated with palm- 
branches, our sailors in their holiday turbans, and Re'is 
Hassan en grande tenuej that is to say, in shoes and stock- 
ings, which he only wore on very great occasions. 

"Neharak-sa'id — good-morning — Luxor!" said he, all in 
one breath. 

It was a hot, hazy morning, with dim ghosts of mount- 
ains glowing through the mist and a warm wind blowing. 

We ran to the side; looked out eagerly; but could see 
nothing. Still the captain smiled and nodded; and the 
sailors ran hither and thither, sweeping and garnishing; 
and Egendi, to whom his worst enemy could not have im- 
puted the charge of bashfulness, said: " Luxor — kharuf* — 
all right!" — every time he came near us. 

We had read and dreamed so much about Thebes, and 
it had always seemed so far away, that but for this delicate 
allusion to the promised sheep, we could hardly have be- 
lieved we were really drawing nigh unto those famous 
shores. About ten, however, the mist was lifted away like 
a curtain, and we saw to the left a rich plain studded with 
palm-groves; to the right a broad margin of cultivated 
lands bounded by a bold range of limestone mountains; 
and on the farthest horizon another range, all gray and 

" Karnak — Grournah — Luxor!" says Rei's Hassan, tri- 
umphantly, pointing in every direction at once. Talhamy 
tries to show us Medinet Habu and the Memnonium. The 
painter vows he can see the heads of the sitting colossi 
and the entrance to the valley of the tombs of the kings. 

We, meanwhile, stare bewildered, incredulous; seeing 

* Arabic, " kharuf," pronounced "haroof" — English, sheep. 


none of these things; finding it difficult, indeed, to believe 
that any one else sees them. The river widens away 
before us; the flats are green on either side; the mountains 
are pierced with terraces of rock-cut tombs ; while far 
away inland, apparently on the verge of the desert, we see 
here a clump of sycamores — yonder a dark hillock — mid- 
way between both a confused heap of something that may 
be either fallen rock or fallen masonry; but nothing that 
looks like a temple, nothing to indicate that we are already 
within recognizable distance of the grandest ruins in the 

Presently, however, as the boat goes on, a massive, win- 
dowless structure which looks (heaven preserve us !) 
just like a brand-new fort or prison, towers up above 
the palm-groves to the left. This, we are told, is one 
of the propylons of Karnak; while a few whitewashed 
huts and a little crowd of masts now coming into 
sight a mile or so higher up mark the position of 
Luxor. Then up capers Egendi with his never-failing 
"Luxor — kharui — all right!" to fetch down the tar 
and darabukkeh. The captain claps his hands. A circle 
is formed on the lower deck. The men, all smiles, strike 
up their liveliest chorus, and so, with barbaric music and 
well-filled sails, and flags flying, and green boughs waving 
overhead, we make our triumphal entry into Luxor. 

The top of another pylon; the slender peak of an obelisk; 
a colonnade of giant pillars half-buried in the soil; the 
white houses of the English, American and Prussian con- 
suls, each with its flagstaff and ensign; a steep slope of 
sandy shore; a background of mud walls and pigeon-towers; 
a foreground of native boats and gayly painted dahabeeyahs 
lying at anchor — such, as we sweep by, is our first pan- 
oramic view of this famous village. A group of turbaned 
officials sitting in the shade of an arched doorway rise and 
salute us as we pass. The assembled dahabeeyahs dozing 
with folded sails, like sea-birds asleep, are roused to 
spasmodic activity. Flags are lowered; guns are fired; all 
Luxor is startled from its midday siesta. Then, before the 
smoke has had time to clear off, up comes the Bagstones 
in gallant form; whereupon the dahabeeyahs blaze away 
again as before. 

And now there is a rush of donkeys and donkey boys, 
beggars, guides and antiquity-dealers, to the shore — the 


children screaming for backshish; the dealers exhibiting 
strings of imitation scarabs; the donkey boys vociferating 
the names and praises of their beasts; all alike regarding 
us as their lawful prey. 

"Hi, lady! Yankee-Doodle donkey; try Yankee Doo- 
dle !" cries one. 

" Far-away Moses !" yells another. " Good donkey — 
fast donkey — best donkey in Luxor !" 

"This Prince of Wales donkey !" shouts a third, haul- 
ing forward a decrepit little weak-kneed, moth-eaten look- 
ing animal, about as good to ride upon as a towel-horse. 
"First-rate donkey! splendid donkey! God save the 
queen ! Hurrah \" 

But neither donkeys nor scarabs are of any importance 
in our eyes just now, compared with the letters we hope to 
find awaiting us on shore. No sooner, therefore, are the 
boats made fast than we are all off, some to the British 
consulate and some to the poste restante, from both of 
which we return rich and happy. 

Meanwhile we propose to spend only twenty-four "hours 
in Luxor. We were to ride round Karnek this first after= 
noon ; to cross to Medinet Habu and the Bamesseum* to- 
morrow morning; and to sail again as soon after midday as 
possible. We hope to get a general idea of the topography 
of Thebes, and to carry away a superficial impression of 
the architectural style of the Pharaohs. It would be but 
a glimpse; yet that glimpse was essential. For Thebes 
represents the great central period of Egyptian art. The 
earlier styles lead up to that point; the later depart from it; 
and neither the earlier nor the later are intelligible with- 
out it. At the same time, however, travelers bound for 
the second cataract do well to put off everything like a 
detailed study of Thebes till the time of coming back. 
For the present, a rapid survey of the three principal 
group of ruins is enough. It supplies the necessary link,, 
It helps one to a right understanding of Edfu, of Phila?, 
of Abu Simbel. In a word, it enables one to put things 

* This famous building is supposed by some to be identical both 
with the Memnonium of Strabo and the tomb of Osymandias as 
described by Diodorus Si cuius. Champollion, however, following 
the sense of the hieroglyphed legends, in which it is styled "The 
House of Rameses " (II), has given to it the more appropriate name 
of the Ramesseum. 


in their right places; and this, after all, is a mental process 
which every traveler must perform for himself. 

Thebes, I need scarcely say, was built, like London, on 
both sides of the river. Its original extent must have been 
very great; but its public buildings, its quays, its thousands 
of private dwellings, are gone and have left few traces. 
The secular city, which was built of crude brick, is repre- 
sented by a few insignificant mounds; while of the sacred 
edifice, five large groups of limestone ruins — three on the 
western bank and two on the eastern, together with the re- 
mains of several small temples and a vast multitude of 
tombs — are all that remain in permanent evidence of its 
ancient splendor. Luxor is a modern Arab village, occupy- 
ing the site of one of the oldest of these five ruins. It 
stands on the eastern bank, close agaiust the river, about 
two miles south of Karnak and nearly opposite the famous 
sitting colossi of the western plain. On the opposite 
bank lie Gournah, the Ramesseum, aud Medinet Habu. 
A glance at the map will do more than pages of explana- 
tion to show the relative position of these ruins. The 
Temple of Gournah, it will be seen, is almost vis-a-vis of 
Karnak. The Ramesseum faces about half-way between 
Karnak and Luxor. Medinet Habu is placed farther to 
the south than any building on the eastern side of the 
river. Behind these three western groups, reaching far 
and wide along the edge of the Libyan range, lies the great 
Theban "Necropolis; while farther back still, in the radiat- 
ing valleys on the other side of the mountains, are found 
the tombs of the kings. The distance between Karnak 
and Luxor is a little less than two miles; while from Medi- 
net Habu to the Temple of Gournah may be roughly 
guessed at something under four. We have here, there- 
fore, some indication of the extent, though not of the 
limits, of the ancient city. 

Luxor is a large village inhabited by a mixed population 
of Copts and Arabs and doing a smart trade in antiquities. 
The temple has here formed the nucleus of the village, the 
older part of which has grown up in and about the ruins. 
The grand entrance faces north, looking down toward 
Karnak. The twin towers of the great propylon, dilapi- 
dated as they are, stripped; of their cornices, incumbered 
with debris, are magnificent still. In front of them, one 
on each side of the central gateway sit two helmeted 


colossi, battered and featureless and buried to the chin, 
like two of the proud in the doleful fifth circle. A few 
yards in front of these again stands a solitary obelisk, also 
half-buried. The colossi are of black granite; the obelisk 
is of red, highly polished and covered on all four sides 
with superb hieroglyphs in three vertical columns. These 
hieroglyphs are engraved with the precision of the finest 
gem. They are cut to a depth of about two inches in the 
outer columns and five inches in the central column of the 
inscription. The true height of this wonderful monolith 
is over seventy feet, between thirty and forty of which are 
hidden under the accumulated soil of many centuries. Its 
companion obelisk, already scaling away by imperceptible 
degrees under the skyey influences of an alien climate, 
looks down with melancholy indifference upon the petty 
revolutions and counter-revolutions of the Place de la 
Concorde. On a line with the two black colossi, but some 
fifty feet or so farther to the west, rises a third and some- 
what smaller head of chert or limestone, the fellow to 
which is doubtless hidden among the huts that encroach 
half-way across the face of the eastern tower. The whole 
outer surface of these towers is covered with elaborate 
sculptures of gods and men, horses and chariots, the pa- 
geantry of triumph' and the carnage of war. The king 
in his chariot draws his terrible bow, or slays his enemies 
on foot, or sits enthroned, receiving the homage of his 
court. Whole regiments armed with lance and shield 
march across the scene. The foe flies in disorder. The 
king, attended by his fan-bearers, returns in state, and the 
priests burn incense before hi in. 

This king is Barneses II, called Sesostris and Osymandias 
by ancient writers, and best known to history as Rameses 
the Great. His actual names and titles as they stand upon 
the monuments are Ra-user-ma Sotp-en-Ra Ra-messu Mer- 
Amen; that is to say: " Ra strong in truth, approved of 
Ra, son of Ra, beloved of Amen." 

The battle scenes here represented relate to that memor- 
able campaign against the Kheta, which forms the subject of 
the famous " Third Sallier Papyrus."* and is commemorated 

* Translated into French by the late Vicomte de Rouge under the 
title of "Le Poernede Pentaour," 1856; into English by Mr. Goodwin, 
1858; and again by Professor Lushington in 1874. See " Records of 
the Past," vol, ii. 


upon the walls of almost every temple built by this mon- 
arch. Separated from his army and surrounded by the 
enemy, the king, attended only by his chariot-driver, is 
said to have six times charged the foe — to have hewn them 
down with his sword of might — to have trampled them 
like straw beneath his horses' feet — to have dispersed them, 
single-handed, like a god. Two thousand five hundred 
chariots were there and he overthrew them; one hundred 
thousand warriors and he scattered them. Those that he 
slew not with his hand he chased unto the water's edge, 
causing them to leap to destruction as leaps the crocodile. 
Such was the immortal feat of Rameses, and such the 
chronicle written by the royal scribe, Pentaur. 

Setting aside the strain of Homeric exaggeration, which 
runs through this narrative, there can be no doubt that it 
records some brilliant deed of arms actually performed by 
the king, within sight, though not within reach, of his 
army; and the hieroglyphic texts interspersed among these 
tableaux state that the events depicted took place on the 
fifth clay of the month Epiphi, in the fifth year of his reign. 
By this we must understand the fifth year of his sole reign, 
which would be five years after the death of his father, 
Seti I, with whom he had from an early age been associated 
on the throne. He was a man in the prime of life at the 
time of this famous engagement, which was fought under 
the walls of Kadesh on the Orontes; and the bas-relief 
sculptures show him to have been accompanied by several 
of his sons, who, though evidently very young, are repre- 
sented in their war-chariots, fully armed and taking part 
in the battle.* 

The mutilated colossi are portrait statues of the con- 
queror. The obelisk, in the pompous style of Egyptian 
dedications, proclaims that "The Lord of the World, 
Guardian-Sun of Truth, approved of Ra, has built this 
edifice in honor of his father Amen Ra, and has erected 
to him these two great obelisks of stone in face of the 
house of Rameses in the city of Amnion." 

* According to tbe great inscription of Abydos translated by Pro- 
fessor Maspero, Rameses II would seem to have been in some sense 
king from bis birtb, as if tbe tbrone of Egypt came to bim tbrougb 
bis rnotber, and as if bis fatber, Seti I, bad reigned for bim during 
bis infancy as king-regent, Some inscriptions, indeed, sbow bim to 
bave received bomage even before bis birtb 


So stately was the approach made by Rameses the Great 
to the temple founded about a hundred and fifty years be- 
fore his time by Amenhotep III. He also built the court- 
yard upon which this pylon opened, joining it to the older 
part of the building in such wise that the original first court 
became now the second court, while next in order came the 
portico, the hall of assembly, and the sanctuary. By and by, 
when the long line of Rameses had passed away, other and 
later kings put their hands to the work. The names of Sha- 
baka (Sabaco), of Ptolemy Philopater and of Alexander 
the younger appear among the later inscriptions; while 
those of Amenhotep IV (Khu-en-Aten), Horemheb and 
Seti, the father of Rameses the Great, are found in the 
earlier parts of the building. It was in this way that an 
Egyptian temple grew from age to age, owing a colon- 
nade to this king and a pylon to that, till it came in time 
to represent the styles of many periods. Hence, too, that 
frequent irregularity of plan, which, unless it could be 
ascribed to the caprices of successive builders, would form 
so unaccountable a feature in Egyptian architecture. In 
the present instance, the pylon and court-yard of Rameses 
II are set at an angle of five degrees to the court-yard and 
sanctuary of Amenhotep III. This has evidently been 
done to bring the Temple of Luxor into a line with the 
Temple of Karnak, in order that the two might be con- 
nected by means of that stupendous avenue of sphinxes, 
the scattered remains of which yet strew the course of the 
ancient roadway. 

As I have already said, these half-buried pylons, this 
solitary obelisk, those giant heads rising in ghastly resur- 
rection before the gates of the temple, were magnificent 
still. But it was as the magnificence of a splendid pro- 
logue to a poem of which only garbled fragments remain. 
Beyond that entrance lay a smoky, filthy, intricate laby- 
rinth of lanes and passages. Mud hovels, mud pigeon- 
towers, mud yards and a mud mosque, clustered like 
wasps' nests in and about the ruins. Architraves sculpt- 
ured with royal titles supported the roofs of squallid 
cabins. Stately capitals peeped out from the midst of 
sheds in which buffaloes, camels, donkeys, dogs and human 
beings were seen herding together in unsavory fellowship. 
Cocks crew, hens cackled, pigeons cooed, turkeys gobbled, 
children swarmed, women were baking and gossiping and 


all the sordid routine of Arab life was going on, amid 
winding alleys that masked the colonnades and defaced the 
inscriptions of the Pharaohs. To trace the plan of this 
part of the building was then impossible. 

All communication being cut off between the courts and 
the portico, we had to go round outside and through a 
door at the farther end of the temple in order to reach 
the sanctuary and the adjoining chambers. The Arab 
who kept the key provided an inch or two of candle. For 
it was very dark in there; the roof being still perfect, with 
a large, rambling, modern house built on the top of it — so 
that if this part of the temple was ever partially lighted, as 
at Denderah and elsewhere, by small wedge-like openings 
in the roof, even those faint gleams were excluded. 

The sanctuary, which was rebuilt in the reign of Alex- 
ander iEgus; some small side chambers; and a large hall, 
which was perhaps the hall of assembly, were all that 
remained under cover of the original roofing-stones. Some 
half-buried and broken columns on the side next the river 
showed, however, that this end was formerly surrounded 
by a colonnade. The sanctuary — an oblong granite cham- 
ber with its own separate roof — stands inclosed in a larger 
hall, like a box within a box, and is covered inside and 
outside with bas-reliefs. These sculptures (among which 
I observed a kneeling figure of the king, offering a kneel- 
ing image of Amen Ra) are executed in the mediocre style 
of the Ptolemies. That is to say, the forms are more 
natural but less refined than those of the Pharaonic period. 
The limbs are fleshy, the joints large, the features insignifi- 
cant. Of actual portraiture one cannot detect a trace; 
while every face wears the same objectionable smirk which 
disfigures the Cleopatra of Denderah. 

In the large hall, which I have called the hall of assem- 
bly, one is carried back to the time of the founder. 
Between Amenhotep III and Alexander iEgus there lies a 
great gulf of twelve hundred years ; and their styles are as 
widely separated as their reigns. The merest novice could 
not possibly mistake the one for the other. Nothing is, 
of course, more common than to find Egyptian and 
Graco-Egyptian work side by side in the same temple; but 
nowhere are the distinctive characteristics of each brought 
into stronger contrast than in these dark chambers of 
Luxor. In the sculptures that line the hall of Amenhotep 


we find the pure lines, the severe and slender forms, the 
characteristic heads of a period when the art, having as 
yet neither gained or lost by foreign influences, was entirely 
Egyptian. The subjects relate chiefly to the infancy of 
the king; but it is difficult to see anything properly by the 
light of a candle tied to the end of a stick; and here, 
where the bas-relief is so low and the w T alls are so high, it 
is almost impossible to distinguish the details of the upper 

I could make out, however, that Amen, Maut, and their 
son Khonsu, the three personages of the Theban triad, are 
the presiding deities of these scenes; and that they are in 
some way identified with the fortunes of Thothmes IV, 
his queen, and their son Amenhotep III. Amenhotep is 
born, apparently, under the especial protection of Maut, 
the divine mother ; brought up with the youthful god 
Khonsu ; and received by Amen as the brother and equal 
of his own divine son. I think it was in this hall that I 
observed a singular group representing Amen and Maut in 
an attitude symbolical perhaps of troth-plight or marriage. 
They sit face to face, the goddess holding in her right 
hand the left hand of the god, while in her left hand she 
supports his right elbow. Their thrones, meanwhile, rest 
on the heads and their feet are upheld on the hands of two 
female genii. It is significant that Rameses III and one 
of the ladies of his so-called hareem are depicted in the 
same attitude in one of the famous domestic subjects 
sculptured on the upper stories of the pavilion at Medinet 

We saw this interesting temple* much too cursorily ; yet 

* The ruins of the great Temple of Luxor have undergone a com- 
plete transformation since the above description was written; Pro- 
fessor Maspero, during the two last years of his official rule as suc- 
cessor to the late Mariette Pasha, having done for this magnificent 
relic of Pharaonic times what his predecessor did for the more recent 
temple of Edfoo. The difficulties of carrying out this great under- 
taking were so great as to appear at the first sight almost insur- 
mountable. The fellaheen refused at first to sell their houses; 
Mustapha Aga asked the exorbitant price of £3,000 for his consular 
residence, built as it was between the columns of Horemheb, facing 
the river; and for no pecuniary consideration whatever was it possi- 
ble to purchase the right of pulling down the mosque in the first great 
court-yard of the temple. After twelve months of negotiation, the 
fellaheen were at last bought out on tbe fair terms, each proprietor 
receiving a stated price for his dwelling and a piece of land elsewhere 


we gave more time to it than the majority of those 
who year after year anchor for days together close under 
its majestic columns. If the whole building could be 
transported bodily to some point between Memphis and 
Siiit, where the river is bare of ruins, it would be enthu- 
siastically visited. Here it is eclipsed by the wonders of 
Karnak and the western bank, and is undeservedly 
neglected. Those parts of the original building which yet 
remain are, indeed, peculiarly precious ; for Amenhotep, 
or Amunoph III, was one of the great builder-kings of 
Egypt, and we have here one of the few extant specimens 
of his architectural work. 

The Coptic quarter of Luxor lies north of the great 
pylon and partly skirts the river. It is cleaner, wider, 
more airy than that of the Arabs. The Prussian consul is 
a Copt ; the polite postmaster is a Copt ; and in a modest 
lodging built half beside and half over the Coptic church 
lives the Coptic bishop. The postmaster (an ungainly 
youth in a European suit so many sizes too small that his 
arms and legs appeared to be sprouting out at the ends of 

upon which to build another. Some thirty families were thus got 
rid of, about eight or ten only refusing to leave at any price. The 
work of demolition was begun in 1885. In 1886, the few 
families yet lingering in the ruins followed the example of the rest; 
and in the course of that season the temple was cleared from end to 
end, only the little native mosque being left standing within the 
precincts, and Mustapha Aga's house on the side next the landing- 
place. Professor Maspero's resignation followed in 1887, since when 
the work has been carried on by his successor, M. (jrebaut, with the 
result that in place of a crowded, sordid, unintelligible labyrinth of 
mud huts, yards, stables, alleys and dung-heaps, a noble temple, 
second only to that of Karnak for grandeur of design and beauty of 
proportion, now marshals its avenues of columns and uplifts its sculpt- 
ured architraves along the crest of the ridge which here rises high 
above the eastern bank of the Nile. Some of those columns, now that 
they are cleared down to the level of the original pavement, measure 
ii ft y seven feet in the shaft; and in the court-yard built by Kameses 11, 
which measures one hundred and ninety feet by one hundred and 
seventy, a series of beautiful colossal statues of that Pharaoh in 
highly polished red granite have been discovered, some yet standing 
;'// situ, having been built into the walls of the mud structures and im- 
bedded (for who shall say how many centuries?) in a sepulcher of ig- 
noble clay. Last of all, Mustapha Aga, the kindly and popular old 
British consul, whose hospitality will long be remembered by English 
travelers, died about twelvemonths since, and the house in which 
he entertained so many English visitors, and upon which he set so 
high a value, is even now in course of demolition. 


his garments) was profuse in his offers of service. He 
undertook to forward letters to us at Assiian, Korosko, 
and Wady Halfah, where postoffices had lately been 
established. And he kept his promise, I am bound to say, 
with perfect punctuality— always adding some queer little 
complimentary message on the outer wrapper, such as 
" I hope you well my compliments;" or " Wishes you good 
news pleasant voyage." As a specimen of his literary 
style I copied the following notice, of which it was evident 
that he was justly proud: 

Notice : On the commandation. We Lave ordered the post 
stations in lower Egypt from Assint to Cartoom. Belonging to the 
Post Kedevy Egyptian in a good order. Now to pay for letters 
in lower Egypt as in the upper Egypt twice. Means that the letters 
which goes from here far than Asiiit; must pay for it two piastres per 
ten grs. Also that which goes far than Cartoom. The letters which 
goes between Asiut and Cartoom; must pay only one piastre per ten 
grs. This and that is, to buy stamps from the Post and put it upon 
the letter. Also if somebody wishes to send letters in insuranced, 
must two piastres more for any letter. There is orderation in the 
Post to receive the letters which goes to Europe, America and Asia, 
as England France, Italy Germany, Syria, Constantinople etc. Also 
to send newspapers patterns and other things. 

" LTspettore," M. Adda. 

Luxor the 1st January 1874. 

This young man begged for a little stationery and a pen- 
knife at parting. We had, of course, much pleasure in 
presenting him with such a modest testimonial. We after- 
ward learned that he levied the same little tribute on 
every dahabeeyah that came up the river; so I conclude 
that he must by this time have quite an interesting collec- 
tion of small cutlery. 

From the point where the railroad ends the Egyptian 
and Nubian mails are carried by runners stationed at dis- 
tances of four miles all along the route. Each man runs 
his four miles, and at the end thereof finds the next man 
ready to snatch up his bag and start off at full speed imme- 
diately. The next man transfers it in like manner to the 
next; and so it goes by day and night without a break, till 
it reaches the first railway station. Each runner is sup- 
posed to do his four miles in half an hour, and the mail 
which goes out every morning from Luxor reaches Cairo 
in six days. Considering that Cairo was four hundred 
and fifty miles away, that two hundred and sixty-eight 


miles of this distance had to be done on foot, and that the 
trains went only once a day, we thought this a very credit- 
able speed. 

In the afternoon we took donkeys and rode out to 
Karnak. Our way lay through the bazaar, which was the 
poorest we had yet seen. It consisted of only a few open 
sheds, in one of which, seated on a mud-built divan, cross- 
legged and turbaniess like a row of tumbler mandarins, we 
saw five of our sailors under the hands of the Luxor barber. 
He had just lathered all five heads, and was complacently 
surveying the effect of his work, much as an artistic cook 
might survey a dish of particularly successful meringues a 
la creme. The meringues looked very sheepish when we 
laughed and passed by. 

Next came the straggling suburb where the dancing-girls 
most do congregate. These damsels in gaudy garments of 
emerald green, bright rose and flaming yellow, were 
squatting outside their cabins or lounging unveiled about 
the thresholds of two or three dismal dens of cafes in the 
market-place. They showed their teeth and laughed 
familiarly in our faces. Their eyebrows were painted to 
meet on the bridge of the nose; their eyes were blackened 
round with kohl; their cheeks were extravagantly rouged; 
their hair was gummed, and greased, and festooned upon 
their foreheads, and plaited all over in innumerable tails. 
Never before had we seen anything in female form so 
hideous. One of these houris was black; and she looked 
quite beautiful in her blackness, compared with the paint- 
ing and plastering of her companions. 

We now left the village behind and rode out across a 
wide plain, barren and hillocky in some parts; overgrown 
in others with coarse halfeh grass; and dotted here and 
there with clumps of palms. The Nile lay low and out of 
sight, so that the valley seemed to stretch away uninter- 
ruptedly to the mountains on both sides. Now leaving to 
the left a sheik's tomb, topped by a little cupola and 
shaded by a group of tamarisks; now following the bed of 
a dry watercourse; now skirting shapeless mounds that in- 
dicated the site of ruins unexplored, the road, uneven but 
direct, led straight to Karnak. At every rise in the 
ground we saw the huge popylons towering higher above 
the palms. Once, but for only a few moments, there 
came into sight a confused and wide-spread mass of ruins, 


as extensive, apparently, as the ruins of a large town. 
Then our way dipped into a sandy groove bordered by mud- 
walls and plantations of dwarf-palms. All at once this 
groove widened, became a stately avenue guarded by a 
double file of shattered sphinxes, and led toward a lofty 
pylon standing up alone against the sky. 

Close beside this grand gateway, as if growing there on 
purpose, rose a thicket of sycamores and palms ; while 
beyond it were seen the twin pylons of a temple. The 
sphinxes were colossal, and measured about ten feet in 
length. One or two were ram-headed. Of the rest — some 
forty or fifty in number — all were headless, some split 
asunder, some overturned, others so mutilated that they 
looked like torrent- worn bowlders. This avenue once 
readied from Luxor to Karnak. Taking into account the 
distance (which is just two miles from temple to temple) 
and the short intervals at which the sphinxes are placed, 
there cannot originally have been fewer than five hundred 
of them; that is to say, two hundred and fifty on each side 
of the road. 

Dismounting for a few minutes, we went into the 
temple ; glanced round the open court-yard with its 
colonnade of pillars; peeped hurriedly into some ruinous 
side-chambers; and then rode on. Our books told us that 
we had seen the small temple of Barneses III. It would 
have been called large- any where but at Karnak. 

I seem to remember the rest as if it had all happened in 
a dream. Leaving the small temple, we turned toward the 
river, skirted the mud walls of the native village, and 
approached the great temple by way of its main entrance. 
Here we entered upon what had once been another great 
avenue of sphinxes, ram-headed, couchant on plinths deep 
cut with hieroglyphic legends, and leading up from some 
grand landing-place beside the Nile. 

And now the towers that we had first seen as we sailed 
by in the morning rose straight before us, magnificent in 
ruin, glittering to the sun, and relieved in creamy light 
against blue depths of sky. One was nearly perfect; the 
other, shattered as if by the shock of an earthquake, was 
still so lofty thau an Arab clambering from block to block 
midway of its vast height looked no bigger than a squirrel. 

On the threshold of this tremendous portal we again dis- 
mounted. Shapeless crude-brick mounds, marking the 


limits of the ancient wall of circuit, reached far away on 
either side. An immense perspective of pillars and 
pylons leading up to a very distant obelisk opened out 
before us. We went in, the great walls towering up like 
cliffs above our heads, and entered the first court. Here, 
in the midst of a large quadrangle open to the sky, stands 
a solitary column, the last of a central avenue of twelve, 
some of which, disjointed by the shock, lie just as they 
fell, like skeletons of vertebrate monsters left stranded by 
the flood. 

Crossing this court in the glowing sunlight, we came to 
a mighty doorway between two more propylons — the 
doorway splendid with colored bas-reliefs; the propylons 
mere cataracts of fallen blocks piled up to right and 
left in grand confusion. The cornice of the doorway is 
gone. Only a jutting fragment of the lintel stone remains. 
That stone, when perfect, measured forty feet and ten 
inches across. The doorway must have been full a 
hundred feet in height. 

We went on. Leaving to the right a mutilated colossus 
engraven on arm and breast with the cartouche of Kameses 
II, we crossed the shade upon the threshold and passed 
into the famous Hypostyle Hall of Seti I. 

It is a place that has been much written about and often 
painted; but of which no writing and no art can convey 
more than a dwarfed and pallid impression. To describe 
it, in the sense of building up a recognizable image by 
means of words, is impossible. The scale is too vast; the 
effect too tremendous; the sense of one's own dumbness, 
and littleness, and incapacity, too complete and crushing. 
It is a place that strikes you into silence; that empties 
you, as it were, not only of words but of ideas. Nor is 
this a first effect only. Later in the year, when we came 
back down the river and moored close by, and spent long 
days among the ruins, I found I never had a word to say 
in the great hall. Others might measure the girth of those 
tremendous columns; others might climb hither and 
thither, and find out points of view, and test the accuracy 
of AYilkinson and Mariette; but I could only look and be 

Yet to look is something, if one can but succeed in 
remembering ; and the great hall of Karnak is photo- 
graphed in some dark corner of my brain for as long as I 


have memory. I slmt my eyes, and see it as if I were 
there — not all at once, as in a picture ; but bit by bit, as 
the eye takes note of large objects and travels over an ex- 
tended field of vision. I stand once more among those 
mighty columns, which radiate into avenues from what- 
ever point one takes them. I see them swathed in coiled 
shadows and broad bands of light. I see them sculptured 
and painted with shapes of gods and kings, with blazon- 
ings of royal names, with sacrificial altars, and forms of 
sacred beasts, and emblems of wisdom and truth. The 
shafts of these columns are enormous. I stand at the foot 
of one — or of what seems to be the foot; for the original 
pavement lies buried seven feet below. Six men standing 
with extended arms, finger-tip to finger-tip, could barely 
span it round. It casts a shadow twelve feet in breadth — 
such a shadow as might be cast by a tower. The capital 
that juts out so high above my head looks as if it might 
have been placed there to support the heavens. It is 
carved in the semblance of a full-blown lotus, and glows 
with undying colors — colors that are still fresh, though 
laid on by hands that have been dust these three thousand 
years and more. It would take not six men, but a dozen, 
to measure round the curved lip of that stupendous lily. 

Such are the twelve central columns. The rest (one 
hundred and twenty-two in number) are gigantic, too, but 
smaller. Of the roof they once supported, only the beams 
remain. Those beams are stones — huge monoliths* carved 
and painted, bridging the space from pillar to pillar, and 
patterning the trodden soil with bands of shadow. 

Looking up and down the central avenue, we see at the 

* The size of these stones not being given in any of onr books, I 
paced the length of one of the shadows, and (allowing for so much 
more at each end as would be needed to reach to the centers of the two 
capitals on which it rested) found the block above must measure at 
least twenty five feet in length. The measurements of the great hall 
are, in plain figures, one hundred and seventy feet in length by 
three hundred and twenty-nine in breadth. It contains one hundred 
and thirty-four columns, of which the central twelve stand sixty-two 
feet high in the shaft (or about seventy with the plinth and abacus), 
and measure thirty-four feet six inches in circumference. The 
smaller columns stand forty-two feet five inches in the shaft, and 
measure twenty-eight feet in circumference. All are buried to a 
depth of between six and seven feet in the alluvial deposits of between 
three and four thousand annual inundations. 


one end a flame-like obelisk ; at the other, a solitary palm 
against a background of glowing mountain. To right, to 
left, showing transversely through long files of columns, 
we catch glimpses of colossal bas-reliefs lining the roofless 
walls in every direction. The king, as usual, figures in 
every group, and performs the customary acts of worship. 
The gods receive and approve him. Half in light, half in 
shadow, these slender, fantastic forms stand out sharp and 
clear and colorless ; each figure some eighteen or twenty 
feet in height. They could scarcely have looked more 
weird when the great roof was in its place and perpetual 
twilight reigned. But it is difficult to imagine the roof 
on and the sky shut out. It all looks right as it is; and 
one feels, somehow, that such columns should have noth- 
ing between them and the infinite blue depths of heaven. 

The great central avenue was, however, sufficiently 
lighted by means of a double row of clerestory windows, 
some of which are yet standing. Certain writers have 
suggested that they may have been glazed; but this seems 
improbable for two reasons. Firstly, because one or two 
of these huge window-frames yet contain the solid stone 
gratings which in the present instance seem to have done 
duty for a translucent material; and, secondly, because we 
have no evidence to show that the early Egyptians, though 
familiar since the days of Cheops with the use of the blow- 
pipe, ever made glass in sheets, or introduced it in this 
way into their buildings. 

How often has it been written, and how often must it 
be repeated, that the great hall at Karnak is the noblest 
architectural work ever designed and executed by human 
hands ? One writer tells us that it covers four times the 
area occupied by the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. 
Another measures it against St. Peter's. All admit their 
inability to describe it; yet all attempt the description. 
To convey a concrete image of the place to one who has 
not seen it, is, however, as I have already said, impossible. 
If it could be likened to this place or that, the task would 
not be so difficult; but there is, in truth, no building in 
the wide world to compare with it. The pyramids are 
more stupendous. The colosseum covers more ground. 
The parthenon is more beautiful. Yet in nobility of con- 
ception, in vastness of detail, in majesty of the highest 
order, the hall of pillars exceeds them every one. This 


doorway, these columns, are the wonder of the world. 
How was that lintel-stone raised ? How were these capi- 
tals lifted ? Entering among those mighty pillars, says a 
recent observer, " you feel that you have shrunk to the 
dimensions and feebleness of a fly." But I think you feel 
more than that. You are stupefied by the thought of the 
mighty men who made them. You say to yourself: 
" There were indeed giants in those days." 

It may be that the traveler who finds himself for the 
first time in the midst of a grove of Wellingtonia gigantea 
feels something of the same overwhelming sense of awe and 
wonder; but the great trees, though they have taken three 
thousand years to grow, lack the pathos and the mystery 
that comes of human labor. They do not strike their roots 
through six thousand years of history. They have not 
been watered with the blood and tears of millions.* Their 
leaves know no sounds less musical than the singing of 
birds, or the moaning of the night-wind as it sweeps over 
the highlands of Calaveros. But every breath that wanders 
down the painted aisles of Karnak seems to echo back the 
sighs of those who perished in the quarry, at the oar, and 
under the chariot-wheels of the conqueror. 

The Hypostyle Hall, though built by Seti, the father of 
Eameses II, is supposed by some Egyptologists to have 
been planned, if not begun, by that same Amenhotep III 
who founded the Temple of Luxor and set up the famous 
colossi of the plain. However this may be, the cartouches 
so lavishly sculptured on pillar and architrave contain no 
names but those of Seti, who undoubtedly executed the 
work en bloc, and of Barneses, who completed it. 

And now, would it not be strange if we knew the name 
and history of the architect who superintended the build- 
ing of this wondrous hall, and planned the huge doorway 
by which it was entered, and the mighty pylons which lie 
shattered on either side? Would it not be interesting to 
look upon his portrait and see what manner of man he 
was? Well, the Egyptian room in the Glyptothek museum 
at Munich contains a statue found some seventy years ago 
at Thebes, which almost certainly represents that man, and 
is inscribed with his history. His name was Bak-en- 

* It lias been calculated that every stone of these huge Pharaonic 
temples cost at least one human life. 


Khonsu (servant of Khonsu). He sits upon the ground, 
bearded and robed, in an attitude of meditation. That he 
was a man of unusual ability is shown by the inscriptions 
engraved upon the back of the statue. These inscriptions 
record his promotion, step by step, to the highest grade of 
the hierarchy. Having obtained the dignity of high priest 
and first prophet of Amen during the reign of Seti I, 
he became chief architect of the Thebaicl under 
Barneses IT, and received a royal commission to superin- 
tend the embellishment of the temples. When Eameses 
II "erected a monument to his divine father Amen Ra," 
the building thereof was executed under the direction of 
Bak-en-Khousu. Here the inscription, as translated by 
M. Deveria, goes on to say that " he made the sacred 
edifice in the upper gate of the abode of Amen.* Ho 
erected obelisks of granite. He made golden flagstaff's. 
He added very, very great colonnades." 

M. Deveria suggests that the Temple of Gournah may 
here be indicated; but to this it might be objected that 
Gournah is situated in the lower and not the upper part of 
Thebes; that at Gournah there are no great colonnades 
and no obelisks; and that, moreover, for some reason at 
present unknown to us, the erection of obelisks seems to 
have been wholly confined to the eastern bank of the Nile. 
It is, however, possible that the works here enumerated 
may not all have been executed for one and the same tem- 
ple. The " sacred edifice in the upper gate of the abode 
of Amen" might be the Temple of Luxor, which Rameses 
did in fact adorn with the oidy obelisks we know to be 
his in Thebes; the monument erected by him to his divine 
father Amen (evidently a new structure) would scarcely 
be any other than the Ratnesseum; while the "very, very 
great colonnades," which are expressly specified as addi- 
tions, would seem as if they could only belong to the Hy- 
postyle Hall of Karnak. The question is at all events in- 
teresting; and it is pleasant to believe that in the Munich 
statue we have not only a portrait of one who at Karnak 
played the part of Michael Angelo to some foregone and 

* i. e. Per Amen, or Pa- Amen ; one of the ancient names of 
Thebes, which was the city especially dedicated to Amen. Also Apt, 
or Abot, or Apetou, by some ascribed to an Indo-Germanic root 
signifying abode. Another name for Thebes, and probably the one 
most in use, was Uas. 


forgotten Bramante, but who was also the Ictinus of the 
Ramesseum. For the Ramesseum is the Parthenon of 

The sun was sinking and the shadows were lengthening 
when, having made the round of the principal ruins, we 
at length mounted our donkeys and turned toward Luxor. 
To describe all that we saw after leaving the great hall 
would fill a chapter. Huge obelisks of shining granite — 
some yet erect, some shattered and prostrate; vast lengths 
of sculptured walls covered with wondrous battle subjects, 
sacerdotal processions, and elaborate chronicles of the 
deeds of kings ; ruined court-yards surrounded by files of 
headless statues; a sanctuary built all of polished granite, 
and engraven like a gem; a second hall of pillars dating 
back to the early days of Thothmes III ; labyrinths of 
roofless chambers; mutilated colossi, shattered pylons, 
fallen columns, unintelligible foundations and hieroglyphic 
inscriptions without end, were glanced at, passed by, 
and succeeded by fresh wonders. I dare not say how many 
small outlying temples we saw in the course of that rapid 
survey. In one place we came upon an undulating tract 
of coarse half eh grass, in the midst of which, battered, 
defaced, forlorn, sat a weird company of green granite 
sphinxes and lioness-headed basts. In another, we saw a 
magnificent colossal hawk upright on his pedestal in the 
midst of a bergfall of ruins. More avenues of sphinxes, 
more pylons, more colossi were passed before the road we 
took in returning brought us round to that by which we 
had come. By the time we reached the sheik's tomb, it 
was nearly dusk. We rode back across the plain, silent 
and bewildered. Have I not said that it was like a 
dream ? 




Hurrying close upon the sevenest of Egyptian sunsets 
came a night of storms. The wind got up about ten. By 
midnight the river was racing in great waves, and our 
dahabeeyah rolling at her moorings like a ship at sea. The 
sand, driving in furious gusts from the Libyan desert, 
dashed like hail against our cabin windows. Every moment 
we were either bumping against the bank or being rammed 
by our own felucca. At length, a little before dawn, a 
huge slice of the bank gave way, thundering like an 
avalanche upon our decks; whereupon Reis Hassan, being- 
alarmed for the safety of the boat, hauled us up to a little 
sheltered nook a few hundred yards higher. Taking it 
altogether, we had not had such a lively night since leaving 

The lookout next morning was dismal — the river run- 
ning high in yeasty waves ; the boats all huddled together 
under the shore ; the western bank hidden in clouds of 
sand. To get under way was impossible, for the wind was 
dead against us ; and to go anywhere by land was equally 
out of the question. Karnak in a sand-storm would have 
been grand to see ; but one would have needed a diving- 
helmet to preserve eyes and ears from destruction. 

Toward afternoon the fury of the wind so far subsided 
that we were able to cross the river and ride to Medinet 
Habu and the Ramesseum. As we achieved only a passing 
glimpse of these wonderful ruins, I will for the present 
say nothing about them. We came to know them so well 
hereafter that no mere first impression would be worth 

A light but fitful breeze helped us on next day as far as 
Erment, the Ptolemaic Hermonthis, once the site of a 
goodly temple, now of an important sugar factory. Here 
we moored for the night, and after dinner received a visit 


of ceremony from the bey — a tall, slender, sharp-featured, 
bright-eyed man in European dress, remarkably dignified 
and well bred — who came attended by his secretary, 
Kawass, and pipe-bearer. Now the Bey of Erment is a 
great personage in these parts. He is governor of the 
town as well as superintendent of the sugar factory ; holds 
a military command; has his palace and gardens close by, 
and his private steamer on the river; and is, like most high 
officials in Egypt, a Turk of distinction. The secretary, 
who was the bey's younger brother, wore a brown Inver- 
ness cape over a long white petticoat, and left his slippers 
at the saloon door. He sat all the time with his toes 
curiously doubled under, so that his feet looked like 
clenched fists in stockings. Both gentlemen wore tar- 
booshes and carried visiting-canes. The visiting-cane, by 
the way, plays a conspicuous part in modern Egyptian 
life. It measures about two and a half feet in length, is 
tipped at both ends with gold or silver, and is supposed to 
add the last touch of elegance to the bearer. 

We entertained our guests with cotfee and lemonade, 
and, as well as we could, with conversation. The bey, 
who spoke only Turkish and Arabic, gave a flourishing 
account of the sugar works, and dispatched his pipe-bearer 
for a bundle of fresh canes and some specimens of raw and 
candied sugars. He said he had an English foreman and 
several English workmen, and that for the English as a 
nation he had the highest admiration and regard; but that 
the Arabs "had no heads." To our inquiries about the 
ruins, his replies were sufficiently discouraging. Of the 
large temple every vestige had long since disappeared ; 
Avhile of the smaller one only a few columns and part of 
the walls were yet standing. They lay out beyond the" 
town and a long way from the river. There was very 
little to see. It was all "sagheer" (small); " moosh- 
taiib" (bad) ; not worth the trouble of the walk. As for 
"anteekahs," they were rarely found here, and when found 
were of slight value. 

A scarab which he wore in a ring was then passed 
round and admired. It fell to our little lady's turn to 
examine it last and restore it to the owner. But the 
owner, with a bow and a deprecating gesture, would have 
none of it. The ring was a toy — a nothing — the lady's 
— his no longer. She was obliged to accept it, however un- 


willingly. To decline would have been to offend. But it was 
the way iu which the thing was done that made the charm 
of this little incident. The grace, the readiness, the cour- 
tesy, the lofty indifference of it, were alike admirable. 
Macready in his best days could have done it with as 
princely an air; but even he would probably have missed 
something of the oriental reticence of the Bey of Erment. 

He then invited us to go over the sugar factory (which 
we declined on account of the lateness of the hour), and 
presently took his leave. About ten minutes after came a 
whole posse of presents — three large bouquets of roses for 
the sittat (ladies), two scarabei, a small funereal statuette 
in the rare green porcelain, and a live turkey. We in re- 
turn sent a complicated English knife with all sorts of 
blades, and some pots of English jam. 

The wind rose next morning with the sun, and by break- 
fast time we had left Erment far behind. All that day the 
good breeze served us well. The river was alive with cargo- 
boats. The Philaj put on her best speed. The little Bag- 
stones kept up gallantly. And theFostitt, a large iron da- 
habeeyah full of English gentlemen, kept us close company 
all the afternoon. We were all alike bound for Esneh, 
which is a large trading town and lies twenty-six miles south 
of Erment. 

Now, at Esneh the men were to bake again. Great, 
therefore, was Rei's Hassan's anxiety to get in first, secure 
the oven and buy the flour before dusk. The rei's of the 
Fostat and he of the Bagstones were equally anxious, and 
for the same reasons. Our men, meanwhile, were wild 
with excitement, watching every manuever of the other 
boats; hanging on to the shoghool like a swarm of bees; 
and obeying the word of command with unwonted alacrity. 
As we neared the goal the race grew hotter. The honor of 
the boats was at stake, and the bread question was for the 
moment forgotten. Finally all three dahabeeyahs ran in 
abreast and moored side by side in front of a row of little 
open cafes, just outside the town. 

Esneh (of which the old Egyptian civil name was Sni, 
and the Roman name Latopolis) stands high upon the 
mounds of the ancient city. It is a large place — as large, 
apparently, as Minieh, and, like Minieh, it is the capital 
of a province. Here dragomans lay in provision of limes, 
charcoal, flour and live stock for the Nubian journey; and 


crews bake for the lust time before their return to Egypt. 
For in Nubia food is scarce and prices are high, and there 
are no public ovens. 

It was about five o'clock on a market day when we 
reached Esneh and the market was not yet over. Going 
up through the usual labyrinth of windowless mud-alleys 
where the old men crouched, smoking, under every bit of 
sunny wall, and the children swarmed like flies, and the 
cry for backshish buzzed incessantly about our ears, we came 
to an open space in the upper part of the town, and found our- 
selves all at once in the midst of the market. Here were 
peasant-folk selling farm produce ; stall-keepers displaying 
combs, looking-glasses, gaudy printed handkerchiefs and 
cheap bracelets of bone and colored glass; camels lying at 
ease and snarling at every passer-by; patient donkeys; own- 
erless dogs; veiled women; blue and black robed men; and 
all the common sights and sounds of a native market. Here 
too, we found Reis Hassan bargaining for flour, Talhemy 
haggling with a charcoal dealer; and the M. B.'s buying 
turkeys and geese for themselves and a huge store of to- 
bacco for their crew. Most welcome sight of all, however, 
was a dingy chemist's shop, about the size of a sentry-box, 
over the door of which was suspended an Arabic inscrip- 
tion; while inside, robed all in black, sat a lean and 
grizzled Arab, from whom we bought a big bottle of rose- 
water to make eye-lotion for L 's ophthalmic patients. 

Meanwhile there was a temple to be seen at Esneh; and 
this temple, as we had been told, was to be found close 
against the market-place. We looked round in vain, how- 
ever, for any sign of pylon or portico. The chemist said 
it was " kureiyib," which means "near by." A camel- 
driver pointed to a dilapidated wooden gateway in a recess 
between two neighboring houses. A small boy volunteered 
to lead the way. We were greatly puzzled. We had ex- 
pected to see the temple towering above the surrounding 
houses, as at Luxor, and could by no means understand 
how any large building to which that gateway might give 
access should not be visible from without. 

The boy, however, ran and thumped upon the gate and 
shouted "Abbas! Abbas !" Mehemet Ali, who was doing 
escort, added some thundering blows with his staff and a 
little crowd gathered, but no Abbas came. 

The by-standers, as usual, were liberal with their advice; 


recommending the boy to climb over and the sailor to 
knock louder and suggesting that Abbas the absent might 
possibly be found in a certain neighboring cafe. At 
length I somewhat impatiently expressed my opinion that 
there was "Mafeesh Birbeh"(no temple at all); where- 
upon a dozen voices were raised to assure me that the Bir- 
beh was no myth — that it was "kebir' (big) — that it was 
"kwy-ees" (beautiful) — and that all the "Ingleez" came 
to see it. 

In the midst of the clamor, however, and just as we are 
about to turn away in despair, the gate creaks open ; the 
gentlemen of the Fostat troop out in puggaries and knick- 
erbockers; and we are at last admitted. 

This is what we see — a little yard surrounded by mud 
walls; at the farther end of the yard a dilapidated door- 
way; beyond the doorway, a strange-looking, stupendous 
mass of yellow limestone masonry, long and low and level 
and enormously massive. A few steps farther and this 
proves to be the curved cornice of a mighty temple — a 
temple neither ruined nor defaced, but buried to the chin 
in the accumulated rubbish of a score of centuries. This 
part is evidently the portico. We stand close under a row 
of huge capitals. The columns that support them are 
buried beneath our feet. The ponderous cornice juts out 
above our heads. From the level on which we stand to the 
top of that cornice may measure about twenty-five feet. A 
high mud wall runs parallel to the whole width of the 
facade, leaving a passage of about twelve feet in breadth 
between the two. A low mud parapet and a hand- 
rail reach from capital to capital. All beyond is vague, 
cavernous, mysterious — a great shadowy gulf, in the midst 
of which dim ghosts of many columns are darkly visible. 
From an opening between two of the capitals a flight of 
brick steps leads down into a vast hall so far below "the 
surface of the outer world, so gloomy, so awful, that it 
might be the portico of Hades. 

Going down these steps we come to the original level of 
the temple. We tread the ancient pavement. We look 
np to the massive ceiling, recessed and sculptured and 
painted, like the ceiling at Denderah. We could almost 
believe, indeed, that we are again standing in the portico 
of Denderah. The number of columns is the same. The 
arrangement of the intercolumnar screen is the same. 


The general effect and the main features of the plan are 
the same. In some respects, however, Esneh is even more 
striking. The columns, though less massive than those of 
Denderah, are more elegant and look loftier. Their shafts 
are covered with figures of gods and emblems and lines of 
hieroglyphed inscription, all cut in low relief. Their cap- 
itals, in place of the huge draped Hathor-heads of Den- 
derah, are studied from natural forms — from the lotus- 
lily, the papyrus-blossom, the plumy date-palm. The 
wall-sculpture, however, is inferior to that at Denderah 
and immeasurably inferior to the wall-sculpture at Karnak. 
The figures are of the meanest Ptolemaic type and all of 
one size. The inscriptions, instead of being grouped 
wherever there happened to be space and so producing the 
richest form of wall decoration ever devised by man, are 
disposed in symmetrical columns, the effect of which, when 
compared with the florid style of Karnak, is as the method- 
ical neatness of an engrossed deed to the splendid freedom 
of an illuminated manuscript. 

The steps occupy the place of the great doorway. The 
jambs and part of the cornice, the intercolumnar screen, 
the shafts of the columns under whose capitals we came in, 
are all there, half-projecting from and half-imbedded in 
the solid mound beyond. The light, however, comes in 
from so high up and through so narrow a space, that one's 
eyes need to become accustomed to the darkness before any 
of these details can be distinguished. Then, by degrees, 
forms of deities familiar and unfamiliar emerge from the 

The temple is dedicated to Knum*or Kneph, the soul of 

* Knuni was one of the primordial gods of the Egyptian cosmogony; 
the divine potter; he who fashioned man from the clay and breathed 
into him the breath of life. He is sometimes represented in the act 
of fashioning the first man, or that mysterious egg from which not 
only man but the universe proceeded, by means of the ordinary pot- 
ter's wheel. Sometimes also he is depicted in his boat, moving upon 
the face of the waters at the dawn of creation. About the time of 
the twentieth dynasty, Knuni became identified with Ra. He also 
was identified with Amen, and was worshiped in the great oasis in 
the Greek period as Amen-Knum. He is likewise known as " The 
Soul of the Gods," and in this character, as well as in his solar char- 
acter, he is represented with the head of a ram, or in the form of a 
ram. Another of his titles is " The Maker of Gods and Men." Knum 
was also one of the gods of the cataract, and chief of the Triad wor- 
shiped at Elephantine. An inscription at Phila? styles him "Maker 
of all that is, Creator of all beings, First existent, the Father of 
fathers, the Mother of mothers. " 


the world, whom we now see for the first time. He is 
ram-headed and holds in his hand the "ankh," or emblem 
of life. Another new acquaintance is Bes,* the grotesque 
god of mirth and jollity. 

Two singular little erections, built in between the 
columns to right and left of the steps, next attract onr at- 
tention. They are like stone sentry-boxes. Each is in 
itself complete, with roof, sculptured cornice, doorway, 
and, if I remember rightly, a small square window in the 
side. The inscriptions upon two similar structures, in the 
portico at Edfu show that the right-hand closet contained, 
the sacred books belonging to the temple, while in the 
closet to the left of the main entrance the king underwent 
the ceremony of purification. It may therefore be taken 
for granted that these at Esneh were erected for the same 

And now we look around for the next hall — and look in 
vain. The doorway which should lead to it is walled up. 
The portico was excavated by Mohammed Ali in 1842; not 
in any spirit of antiquarian zeal, bnt in order to provide a 
safe underground magazine for gunpowder. Up to that 
time, as may be seen by one of the illustrations to Wilkin- 
son's " Thebes and General View of Egypt," the interior was 
choked to within a few feet of the capitals of the columns, 
and used as a cotton-store. Of the rest of the building 
nothing is known; nothing is visible. It is as large, prob- 
ably, as Denderah or Edfu. and in as perfect preservation. 
So, at least, says local tradition; but not even local tradi- 
tion can point out to what extent it underlies the founda- 
tions of the modern houses that swarm above its roof. An 
inscription first observed by Champollion states that the 
sanctuary was built by Thothmes III. Is that antique 
sanctuary still there? Has the temple grown step by step 
under the hands of successive kings, as at Luxor? Or has 
it been re-edi6ed ab ovo, as at Denderah? These are 
" puzzling questions," only to be resolved by the demolition 
of a quarter of the town. Meanwhile what treasures of 

* Bes. " La culta de Bes parait gtre une iinportation Asiatique. 
Quelquefois le dieu est arme d'une epee qu'il brandit au-dessus de 
sa tSte; dans ce role, il senible le dieu des combats. Plus souvent 
c'est le dieu ce la danse, de la musique, des plaisirs." — Mariette 


sculptured history, what pictured chambers, what buried 
bronzes and statues may here await the pick of the ex- 
cavator ! 

All next day, while the men were baking, the writer sat 
in a corner of the outer passage and sketched the portico 
of the temple. The sun rose upon the one horizon and set 
upon the other before that drawing was finished; yet for 
scarcely more than one hour did it light up the front of 
the temple. At about half-past nine a.m. it first caught 
the stoue fillet at the angle. Then, one by one, each 
massy capital became outlined with a thin streak of gold. 
As this streak widened the cornice took fire, and presently 
the whole stood out in light against the sky. Slowly then, 
but quite preceptibly, the sun traveled across the narrow 
space overhead ; the shadows became vertical ; the light 
changed sides; and by ten o'clock there was shade for the 
remainder of the day. Toward noon, however, the sun 
being then at its highest and the air transfused with light, 
the inner columns, swallowed up till now in darkness, be- 
came illuminated with a wonderful reflected light, and 
glowed from out the gloom like pillars of fire. 

Never to go on shore without an escort is one of the 
rules of Nile life, and Salame has by this time become my 
exclusive property. He is a native of Assuan, young, 
active, intelligent, full of fun, hot-tempered withal, and as 
thorough a gentleman as I have ever had the pleasure of 
knowing. For a sample of his good-breeding, take this 
day at Esneh — a day which he might have idled away in 
the bazaars and cafes, and which it must have been dull 
work to spend cooped up between a mud wall and an out- 
landish birbeb, built by the Djinns who reigned before 
Adam. Yet Salame betrays no discontent. Curled up in 
a shady corner, he watches me like a dog; is ready with an 
umbrella as soon as the sun comes round; and replenishes 
a water bottle or holds a color box as deftly as though he 
had been to the manner born. At one o'clock arrives my 
luncheon, enshrined in a pagoda of plates. Being too 
busy to leave off work, however, I put the pagoda aside, 
and dispatch Salame to the market, to buy himself some 
dinner; for which purpuse, wishing to do the thing hand- 
somely, I present him with the magnificent sum of two 
silver piasters, or about five pence English. With this he 
contrives to purchase three or four cakes of flabby native 


bread, a black-looking rissole of chopped meat and vege- 
tables, and about a pint of dried dates. 

Knowing this to be a better dinner than my friend gets 
every day, knowing also that our sailors habitually eat at 
noon, I -am surprised to see him leave these dainties un- 
tasted. In vain I say " Bismillah" (in the name of God); 
pressing him to eat in vocabulary phrases eked out with 
expressive pantomine. He laughs, shakes his head, and, 
asking permission to smoke a cigarette, protests he is not 
hungry. Thus three more hours go by. Accustomed to 
long fasting and absorbed in my sketch, I forget all about 
the pagoda; and it is past four o'clock when I at length 
set to work to repair tissue at the briefest possible cost of 
time and daylight. And now the faithful Salame falls to 
with an energy that causes the cakes, the rissole, the dates, 
to vanish as if by magic. .Of what remains from my 
luncheon he also disposes in a trice. Never, unless in a 
pantomine, have I seen mortal man display so prodigious 
an appetite. 

I made Talhamy scold him, by and by, for this piece of 
voluntary starvation. 

"By my prophet!" said he, "am I a pig or a dog, that 
I should eat when the sitt was fasting?" 

It was at Esneh, by the way, that that hitherto undiscov- 
ered curiosity, an ancient Egyptian coin, was offered to 
me for sale. The finder was digging for niter, and turned 
it up at an immense depth below the mounds on the out- 
skirts of the town. He volunteered to show the precise 
spot, and told his artless tale with child-like simplicity. 
Unfortunately, however, for the authenticity of this re- 
markable relic, it bore, together with the familiar profile 
of George IV, a superscription of its modest value, which 
was precisely one farthing. On another occasion, when 
we were making our long stay at Luxor, a colored glass 
button of honest Birmingham make was brought to the 
boat by a fellah who swore that he had himself found it 
upon a mummy in the tombs of the queens at Kurnet Mur- 
raee. The same man came to my tent one day when I was 
sketching, bringing with him a string of more that doubt- 
ful scarabs — all veritable "anteekahs," of course, and all 
backed up with undeniable pedigrees. 

" La, la [no, no] ! bring me no more anteekahs," I said, 
gravely. " They are old and worn out, and cost much 


money. Have you no imitation scarabs, new and service- 
able, that one might wear without the fear of breaking 

"These are imitations. sitt!" was the ready answer. 

" But you told me a moment ago they were genuine 

" That was because I thought the sitt wanted to buy 
anteekahs," he said, quite shamelessly. 

"See now," I said, "if you are capable of selling me 
new things for old, how can I be sure that you would not 
sell me old things for new?" 

To this he replied by declaring that he had made the 
scarabs himself. Then, fearing I should not believe him, 
he pulled a scrap of coarse paper from his bosom, borrowed 
one of my pencils, and drew an asp, an ibis, and some 
other common hieroglyphic forms, with tolerable dexterity. 

"Now you believe?" he asked, triumphantly. 

"I see that you can make birds and snakes," I replied; 
" but that neither proves that you can cut scarabs, nor 
that these scarabs are new." 

" Nay, sitt," he protested, " I made them with these 
hands. I made them but the other day. By Allah! they 
cannot be newer." 

Here Talhamy interposed. 

" In that case," he said, " they are too new, and will 
crack before a month is over. The sitt would do better 
to buy some that are well seasoned." 

Our honest fellah touched his brow and breast. 

"Now in strict truth, dragoman!" he said, with an 
air of the most engaging candor, "these scarabs were 
made at the time of the inundation. They are new; but 
not too new. They are thoroughly seasoned. If they 
crack, you shall denounce me to the governor, and I will 
eat stick for them!" 

Now it has always seemed to me that the most curious 
feature in this little scene was the extraordinary simplicity 
of the Arab. With all his cunning, with all his dis- 
position to cheat, he suffered himself to be turned inside- 
out as unsuspiciously as a baby. It never occurred to him 
that his untruthfulness was being put to the test, or that 
he was committing himself more and more deeply with 
every word he uttered. The fact is, however, that the 
fellah is half a savage. Notwithstanding his mendacity 


(unci it must be owned that lie is the most brilliant liar 
under heaven), he remains a singularly transparent piece 
of humanity , easily amused, easily deceived, easily angered, 
easily pacified. He steals a little, cheats a little, lies a 
great deal; but on the other hand he is patient, hospitable, 
affectionate, trustful. He suspects no malice and bears 
none. He commits no great crimes. He is incapable of 
oevenge. In short, his good points outnumber his bad 
cnes; and what man or nation need hope for a much better 

To generalize in this way may seem like presumption on 
the part of a passing strauger; yet it is more excusable as 
regards Egypt than it would be of any other equally 
accessible country. In Europe, and indeed in most parts of 
the east, one sees too little of the people to be able to form 
an opinion about them; but it is not so on the Nile. Cut 
off from hotels, from railways, from Europeanized cities, 
you are brought into continual intercourse with natives. 
The sick who come to you for medicines, the country 
gentlemen and government officials who visit you on board 
your boat and entertain you on shore, your guides, your 
donkey boys, the very dealers who live by cheating you, 
furnish endless studies of character, and teach you more 
of Egyptian life than all the books of Nile-travel that were 
ever written. 

Then your crew, part Arab, part Nubian, are a little 
world in themselves. One man was born a slave, and will 
carry the dealer's brand-marks to his grave. Another 
has two children in Miss Whateley's school at 
Cairo. A third is just married, and has left his young 
wife sick at home. She may be dead by the time he gets 
back, and we will hear no news of her meanwhile. So 
with them all. Each has his simple story — a story in 
which the local oppressor, the dreaded conscription, and 
the still more dreaded corvee, form the leading incidents. 
The poor fellows are ready enough to pour out their hopes, 
their wrongs, their sorrows. Through sympathy with 
these, one comes to know the men; and through the men, 
the nation. For the life of the beled repeats itself with 
but little variation wherever the Nile flows and the khe- 
dive rules. The characters are the same; the incidents are 
the same. It is only the mise en scene which varies. 

And thus it comes to pass that the mere traveler who 


spends but half a year on the Nile may, if he takes an in- 
terest in Egypt and the Egyptians, learn more of both in 
that short time than would be possible in a country less 
singularly narrowed in all ways — politically, socially, geo- 

And this reminds me that the traveler on the Nile 
really sees the whole land of Egypt. Going from point to 
point in other countries, one follows a thin line of road, 
railway, or river, leaving wide tracts unexplored on either 
side: but there are few places in Middle or Upper Egypt, 
and none at all in Nubia, where one may not, from any 
moderate height, survey the entire face of the country 
from desert to desert. It is well to do this frequently. It 
helps one, as nothing else can help one, to an understand- 
ing of the wonderful mountain waste through which the 
Nile has been scooping its way for uncounted cycles. And 
it enables one to realize what a mere slip of alluvial de- 
posit is this famous land which is " the gift of the river." 

A dull gray morning; a faint and fitful breeze carried us 
slowly on our way from Esneh to Edfu. The new bread 
— a heavy boat-load when brought on board — lay in a huge 
heap at the end of the upper deck. It took four men one 
whole day to cut it up. Their incessant gabble drove us 
nearlv distracted. 

"Uskut, Khaleefeh ! Uskut, Ali !" ("Silence, Khalee- 
feh! Silence, Ali!") Talhamy would say from time to time. 
" You are not on your own deck. The Howadji can 
neither read nor write for the clatter of your tongues." 

And then, for about a minute and a half, they would be 

But you could as easily keep a monkey from chattering 
as an Arab. Our men talked incessantly; and their talk 
was always about money. Listen to them when we might, 
such words as "khamsa guriish " (five piasters), " nus 
riyal" (half-a-dollar), "ethneen shilling" (two shillings), 
were perpetually coming to the surface. We never could 
understand how it was that money, which played so small a 
part in their lives, should play so large a part in their 

It was about midday when we passed El Kab, the ancient 
Eileithyias. A rocky valley narrowing in hind; a sheik's 
tomb on the mountain-ridge above; a few clumps of date- 
palms ; some remains 6f what looked like a long, crude 


brick wall running at right angles to the river; and an 
isolated mass of hollowed limestone rock left standing ap- 
parently in the midst of an exhausted quarry, were all we 
saw of El Kab as the dahabeeyah glided by. 

And now, as the languid afternoon wears on, the propy- 
lons of Edfu loom out of the misty distance. AVe have 
been looking for them long enough before they come into 
sight — calculating every mile of the way; every minute of 
the daylight. The breeze, such as it was, has dropped 
now. The river stretches away before us, smooth and oily 
as a pond. Nine of the men are tracking. Will they pull 
us to Edfu in time to see the temple before nightfall ? 

Eei's Hassan looks doubtful; but takes refuge as usual 
in "Inshallah !" ("God willing"). Talhamy talks of land- 
ing a sailor to run forward and order donkeys. Mean- 
while the Philas creeps lazily on; the sun declines unseen 
behind a filmy veil; and those two shadowy towers, rising 
higher and ever higher on the horizon, look gray, and 
ghostly, and far distant still. 

Suddenly the trackers stop, look back, shout to those on 
board, and begin drawing the boat to shore. Rei's Hassan 
points joyously to a white streak breaking across the 
smooth surface of the river about half a mile behind. The 
Fostat's sailors are already swarming aloft — the Bagstones' 
trackers are making for home — our own men are prepar- 
ing to fling in the rope and jump on board as the Philae 
nears the bank. 

For the capricious wind, that always springs up when we 
don't want it, is coming! 

And now the Fostat, being hindmost, flings out her big 
sail and catches the first puff; the Bagstones' turn comes 
next; the Philse shakes her wings free and shoots ahead; 
and in fewer minutes than it takes to tell, we are all three 
scudding along before a glorious breeze. 

The great towers that showed so far away half an hour 
ago are now close at hand. There are palm-woods about 
their feet, and clustered huts, from the midst of which 
they tower up against the murky sky magnificently. Soon 
they are passed and left behind, and the gray twilight 
takes them and we see them no more. Then night comes 
on, cold and starless; yet not too dark for going as fast as 
wind and canvas will carry us. 

And now, with that irrepressible instinct of rivalry that 


fl es }i — especially flesh on the Nile — is heir to, we quickly 
turn our good going into a trial of speed. It is no longer 
a mere business-like devotion to the matter in hand. It is 
a contest for glory. It is the Philae against the Fostat, and 
the Bagstones against both. In plain English, it is a race. 
The two leading dahabeeyahs are pretty equally matched. 
The Philae is larger than the Fostat; but the Fostat has a 
bigger mainsail. On the other hand, the Fostat is an iron 
boat; whereas the Philae, being wooden-built, is easier to 
pole off a sand-bank, and lighter in hand. The Bagstones 
carries a capital mainsail and can go as fast as either upon 
occasion. Meanwhile, the race is one of perpetually vary- 
ing fortunes. Now the Fostat shoots ahead; now the 
Philas. We pass and repass ; take the wind out of one 
another's sails; economize every curve; hoist every stitch 
of canvas, and, having identified ourselves with our boats, 
are as eager to win as if a great prize depended on it. 
Under these circumstances, to dine is difficult — to go to 
bed superfluous — to sleep impossible. As to mooring for 
the night, it is not to be thought of for a moment. 
Having begun the contest, we can no more help going 
than the wind can help blowing; and our crew are as keen 
about winning as ourselves. 

As night advances, the wind continues to rise, and our 
excitement with it. Still the boats chase each other along 
the dark river, scattering spray from their bows and 
flinging out broad foam-tracks behind them. Their cabin 
windows, all alight within, cast flickering flames upon the 
waves below. The colored lanterns at their mast-heads, 
orange, purple and crimson, burn through the dusk-like 
jewels. Presently the mist blows off; the sky clears; the 
stars come out; the wind howls; the casements rattle; the 
tiller scroops; the sailors shout, and race, and bang the 
ropes about overhead; while we, sitting up in our narrow 
berths, spend half the night watching from our respective 

In this way some hours go by. Then, about three in the 
morning, with a shock, a recoil, a yell and a scuffle, we all 
three rush headlong upon a sand-bank! The men fly to 
the rigging and furl the flapping sail. Some seize punting 
poles. Others, looking like full-grown imps of darkness, 
leap overboard and set their shoulders to the work. A 
strophe and antistrophe of grunts are kept up between 


those on deck and those in the water. Finally, after some 
ten minutes' frantic struggle, the Phila3 slips off, leaving 
the other two aground in the middle of the river. 

Toward morning, the noisy night having worn itself 
away, we all fall asleep — only to be roused again by Tal- 
hamy's voice at seven, proclaiming aloud that the Bag- 
stones and Fostat are once more close upon our heels; 
that Silsilis and Kom Oinbo are passed and left behind; 
that we have already put forty-six miles between ourselves 
and Edfii; and that the good wind is still blowing. 

We are now within fifteen miles of Assuan. The Nile is 
narrow here, and the character of the scenery has quite 
changed. Our view is bounded on the Arabian side by a 
near range of black granitic mountains; while on the 
Libyan side lies a chain of lofty sand-hills, each curiously 
cupped by a crown of dark bowlders. On both banks the 
river is thickly fringed with palms. 

Meanwhile the race goes on. Last night it was sport; 
to-day it is earnest. Last night we raced for glory; to-day 
we race for a stake. 

" A guinee for Reis Hassan if we get first to Assuan!" 

Reis Hassan's eyes glisten. No need to call up the 
dragoman to interpret between us. The look, the tone, 
are as intelligible to him as the choicest Arabic; and the 
magical word " guinee" stands for a sovereign now, as it 
stood for one-pound-one in the days of Nelson and Aber- 
crombie. He touches his head and breast ; casts a back- 
ward glance at the pursuing dahabeeyahs, a forward 
glance in the direction of Assuan ; kicks off his shoes; ties 
a handkerchief about his waist; and stations himself at the 
top of the steps leading to the upper deck. By the light 
in his eye and the set look about his mouth, Reis Hassan 
means winning. 

Now to be first in Assuan means to be first on the gov- 
ernor's list and first up the cataract. And as the passage 
of the cataract is some two or three days' work this little 
question of priority is by no means unimportant. Not for 
five times the promised " guinee" would we have the Fos- 
tat slip in first, and so be kept waiting our turn on the 
wrong side of the frontier. 

Aiid now, as the sun rises higher, so the race waxes 
hotter. At breakfast time we were fifteen miles from 
Assuan. Now the fifteen miles have gone down to ten; 


and when we reach yonder headland they will have 
dwindled to seven. It is plain to see, however, that as the 
distance decreases between ourselves and Assuan, so also it 
decreases between ourselves and the Fostat. Keis Hassan 
knows it. I see him measuring the space by his eye. I 
see the frown settling on his brow. He is calculating how 
much the Fostat gains in every quarter of an hour, and 
how many quarters we are yet distant from the goal. For 
no Arab sailor counts by miles. He counts by time and 
by the reaches in the river; and these may be taken at a 
rough average of three miles each. When, therefore, our 
captain, in reply to an oft-repeated question, says we have 
yet two bends to make, we know that we are about six 
miles from our destination. 

Six miles — and the Fostat creeping closer every minute! 
Just now we were all talking eagerly; but as the end draws 
near, even the sailors are silent. Kei's Hassan stands 
motionless at his post, on the lookout for shallows. The 
words "Shamal — Yemin " ("left — right"), delivered in a 
short, sharp tone, are the only sounds he utters. The 
steersman, all eye and ear, obeys him like his hand. The 
sailors squat in their places, quiet and alert as cats. 

And now it is no longer six miles, but five — no longer 
five, but four. The Fostat, thanks to her bigger sail, has 
well-nigh overtaken us; and the Bagstones is not more than 
a hundred yards behind the Fostat. On we go, however, 
past palm-woods of nobler growth than any we have yet 
seen ; past forlorn homeward-bound dahabeeyahs lying-to 
against the wind ; past native boats, and riverside huts, 
and clouds of driving sand ; till the corner is turned, and 
the last reach gained, and the minarets of Assuan are seen 
as through a shifting fog in the distance. The ruined 
tower crowning yonder promontory stands over against the 
town ; and those black specks midway in the bed of the 
river are the first outlying rocks of the cataract. The 
channel there is hemmed in between reefs and sand-banks, 
and to steer it is difficult in even the calmest weather. 
Still our canvas strains to the wind, and the Philse rushes 
on full-tilt, like a racer at the hurdles. 

Every eye now is turned upon Rei's Hassan; and Eei's 
Hassan stands rigid, like a man of stone. The rocks are 
close ahead — so close that we can see the breakers pouring 
over them and the swirling eddies between. Our way 


lies through an opening between the bowlders. Beyond 
that opening the channel turns off sharply to the left. It 
is a point at which everything will depend on the shifting 
of a sail. If done too soon, we miss the mark; if too late, 
we strike upon the rocks. 

Suddenly our captain flings up his hand, takes the 
stairs at a bound, and flies to the prow. The sailors 
spring to their feet, gathering some round the shoghool, 
and some round the end of the yard. The Fostat is up 
beside us. The moment for winning or losing is come. 

And now, for a couple of breathless seconds, the two 
dahabeeyahs plunge onward side by side, making for that 
narrow passage which is only wide enough for one. Then 
the iron boat, shaving the sand-bank to get a wider berth, 
shifts her sail first, and shifts it clumsily, breaking or let- 
ting go her shoghool. We see the sail flap and the rope 
fly, and all hands rushing to retrieve it. 

In that moment Re'is Hassan gives the word. The 
Philae bounds forward — takes the channel from under the 
very bows of the Fostat — changes her sail without a hitch — 
and dips right away down the deep water, leaving her rival 
hard and fast among the shallows. 

The rest of the way is short and open. In less than five 
minutes we have taken in our sail, paid Rei's Hassan his 
well-earned guinee, and found a snug corner to moor in. 
And so ends our memorable race of nearly sixty-eight 
miles from Edfu to Assuan. 




The green Island of Elephantine, which is about a mile 
in length, lies opposite Assuan and divides the Nile in two 
channels. The Libyan and Arabian deserts — smooth 
amber sand-slopes on the one hand; rugged granite cliffs 
on the other — come down to the brink on either side. On 
the Libyan shore a sheik's tomb, on the Arabian shore a 
bold fragment of Moorish architecture with ruined arches 
open to the sky, crown two opposing heights, and keep 
watch over the gate of the cataract. Just under the 
Moorish ruin, and separated from the river by a slip of 
sandy beach, lies Assuan. 

A few scattered houses, a line of blank wall, the top of 
a minaret, the dark mouths of one or two gloomy alleys, 
are all that one sees of the town from the mooriug-place 
below. The black bowlders close against the shore, some 
of which are superbly hieroglyphed, glisten in the sun like 
polished jet.* The beach is crowded with bales of goods; 
with camels laden and unladen; with turbaned figures 
coming and going; with damaged cargo-boats lying up 
high and dry, and half heeled over, in the sun. Others, 
moored close together, are taking in or discharging cargo. 
A little apart from these lie some three or four dahabee- 
yahs flying English, American, and Belgian flags. Another 
has cast anchor over the way at Elephantine. Small row- 
boats cross and recross, meanwhile, from shore to shore; 

* " At the cataracts of the great rivers Orinoco, Nile and Congo, 
the syenitic rocks are coated by a black substance, appearing as if 
they had been polished with plumbago. The layer is of extreme 
thinness; and on analysis by Berzelius it was found to consist of the 
oxides of manganese and iron. . . . The origin, however, of these 
coatings of metallic oxides, which seem as if cemented to the rocks, 
is not understood; and no reason, I believe, can be assigned for their 
thickness remaining the same." — "Journal of Researches," by 
Charles Darwin, chap, i, p. 12, ed. 1845. 


dogs bark ; camels snort and snarl ; donkeys bray; and 
clamorous curiosity dealers scream, chatter, hold their 
goods at arm's length, battle and implore to come on board, 
and are only kept off the landing-plank by means of two 
big sticks in the hands of two stalwart sailors. 

The things offered for sale at Assuan are altogether new 
and strange. Here are no scarabaei, no funerary statuettes, 
no bronze or porcelain gods, no relics of a past civilization; 
but, on the contrary, such objects as speak only of a rude 
and barbarous present — ostrich eggs and feathers, silver 
trinkets of rough Nubian workmanship, spears, bows, ar- 
rows, bucklers of rhinoceros hide, ivory bracelets, cut 
solid from the tusk, porcupine quills, baskets of stained 
and plaited reeds, gold nose rings and the like. One old 
woman has a Nubian lady's dressing-case for sale — an un- 
couth, fetich-like object with a cushion for its body, and a 
top-knot of black feathers. The cushion contains two kohl- 
bottles, a bodkin and a bone comb. 

But the noisest dealer of the lot is an impish boy blessed 
with the blackest skin and the shrillest voice ever brought 
together in one human being. His simple costume con- 
sists of a tattered shirt and a white cotton skull-cap; his 
stock in trade of a greasy leather fringe tied to the end of 
a stick. Flying from window to window of the saloon on 
the side next the shore, scrambling up the bows of a neigh- 
boring cargo-boat so as to attack us in the rear, thrust- 
ing his stick and fringe in our faces whichever way we turn, 
and pursuing us with eager cries of "Madame Nubia! 
Madame Nubia!" he skips and screams and grins like an 
ubiquitous goblin, and throws every competitor into the 

Having seen a similar fringe in the collection of a friend 
at home, I at once recognized in " Madame Nubia" one of 
those curious girdles, which, with the addition of a necklace 
and a few bracelets, form the entire wardrobe of little girls 
south of the cataract. They vary in size according to the 
age of the wearer; the largest being about twelve inches in 
depth and twenty-five in length. A few are ornamented with 
beads and small shells; but these aveparures de luxe. The or- 
dinary article is cheaply and unpretentiously trimmed with 
castor-oil. That is to say, the girdle when new is well 
soaked in the oil, which softens and darkens the leather, 
besides adding a perfume dear to native nostrils. 


For to the Nubian, who grows his own plants and bruises 
his own berries, this odor is delicious. He reckons castor- 
oil among his greatest luxuries. He eats it as we eat 
butter. His wives saturate their plaited locks in it. His 
little girls perfume their fringes with it. His boys anoint 
their bodies with it. His home, his breath, his garments, 
his food are redolent of it. It pervades the very air in 
which he lives and has his being. Happy the European 
traveler who, while his lines are cast in Nubia, can train 
his degenerate nose to delight in the aroma of castor-oil! 

The march of civilization is driving these fringes out of 
fashion on the frontier. At Assuan they are chiefly in de- 
mand among English and American visitors. Most people 
purchase a " Madame Nubia" for the entertainment of 

friends at home. L , who is given to vanities in the 

way of dress, bought one so steeped in fragrance that it 
scented the Phila? for the rest of the voyage and retains its 
odor to this day. 

Almost before the mooring-rope was made fast our 
painter, arrayed in a gorgeous keffiyeh* and armed with 
the indispensible visiting-cane, had sprung ashore and 
hastened to call upon the governor, A couple of hours 
later the governor (having promised to send at once for 
the sheik of the cataract and to forward our going by all 
means in his power) returned the visit. He brought with 
him the mudirf and kadij of Assuan, each attended by his 

We received our guests with due ceremony in the saloon. 
The great men placed themselves on one of the side-divans, 
and the painter opened the conversation by offering them 
champagne, chiret, port, sherry, curacoa, brandy, whisky 
and Angostura bitters. Talhamy interpreted. 

The governor laughed. He was a tall young man, grace- 
ful, lively, good-looking and black as a crow. The kadi 
and mudir both elderly Arabs, yellow, wrinkled and pre- 
cise, looked shocked at the mere mention of these unholy 
liquors. Somebody then proposed lemonade. 

The governor turned briskly toward the speaker. 

* Keffiyeh : A square head-shawl, made of silk or wollen. Euro- 
pean travelers wear them as puggarees, 
f Mudir : Chief magistrate. 
X Kadi : Judge. 


"Gazzoso ?" he said, interrogatively. 

To which Talhamy replied: " Ai'wah [yes,] Gazzoso." 

Aerated lemonade and cigars were then brought. The 
governor watched the process of uncorking with a face of 
profound interest and drank with the undisguised greedi- 
ness of a school-boy. Even the kadi and mudir relaxed 
somewhat of the gravity of their demeanor. To men 
whose habitual drink consists of lime-water and sugar, 
bottled lemonade represents chamjoagne mousseux of the 
choicest brand. 

Then began the usual attemps at conversation; and only 
those who have tried small talk by proxy know how hard 
it is to supply topics, suppress yawns and keep up an 
animated expression of countenance, while the civilities on 
both sides are being interpreted by a dragoman. 

We began, of course, with the temperature ; for in 
Egypt, where it never rains and the sun is always shining, 
the thermometer takes the place of the weather as a useful 
platitude. Knowing that Assuan enjoys the hottest repu- 
tation of any town on the surface of the globe, we were 
agreeably surprised to find it no warmer than England in 
September. The governor accounted for this by saying 
that he had never known so cold a winter. We then asked 
the usual questions about the crops, the height of the river, 
and so forth; to all of which he replied with the ease and 
bonhomie of a man of the world. Nubia, he said, was 
healthy — the date-harvest had been abundant — the corn 
promised well — the Soudan was quiet and prosperous. 
Referring to the new postal arrangements, he congratulated 
us on being able to receive and post letters at the second 
cataract. He also remarked that the telegraphic wires 
were now in working order as far as Khartum. We then 
asked how soon he expected the railway to reach Assuan; 
to which he replied: " In two years, at latest." 

At length our little stock of topics came to an end and 
the entertainment flagged. 

" What shall I say next ?" asked the dragoman. 

" Tell him we particularly wish to see the slave market." 

The smile vanished from the governor's face. The 
mudir set down a glass of fizzing lemonade, untasted. 
The kadi all but dropped his cigar. If a shell had burst 
in the saloon their consternation could scarcely have been 


The governor, looking very grave, was the first to speak. 

" He says there is no slave trade in Egypt and no slave 
market in Assiian," interrupted Talhamy. 

Now, we had been told in Cairo, on excellent authority, 
that slaves were still bought and sold here, though less 
publicly than of old; and that of all the sights a traveler 
might see in Egypt, this was the most curious and 

" No slave market !" we repeated, incredulously. 

The governor, the kadi and the mudir shook their heads, 
and lifted up their voices, and said all together, like a trio 
of mandarins in a comic opera: 

" La, la, la ! Mafeesh bazaar — mafeesh bazaar !" ("No, 
no, no! No bazaar — no bazaar !") 

We endeavored to explain that in making this inquiry 
we desired neither the gratification of an idle curiosity, 
nor the furtherance of any political views. Our only 
object was sketching. Understanding, therefore, that a 
private bazaar still existed in Assiian 

This was too much for the judical susceptibilities of the 
kadi. He would not let Talhamy finish. 

'•' There is nothing of the kind," he interrupted, pucker- 
ing his face into an expression of such virtuous horror as 
might become a reformed New Zealander on the subject of 
cannibalism. "It is unlawful — unlawful." 

An awkward silence followed. We felt we had com- 
mitted an enormous blunder, and were disconcerted 

The governor saw, and with the best grace in the world 
took pity upon, our embarrassment. He rose, opened the 
piano, and asked for some music; whereupon the little 
lady played the liveliest thing she could remember; which 
happened to be a waltz by Verdi. 

The governor, meanwhile, sat beside the piano, smiling 
and attentive. With all his politeness, however, he seemed 
to be looking for something — to be not altogether satisfied. 
There was even a shade of disappointment in the tone of 
his "Ketther-khayrik ketir," when the waltz finally ex- 
ploded in a shower of arpeggios. What could it be? Was 
it that he wished for a song? Or would a pathetic air have 
pleased him better? 

Not a bit of it. He was looking for what his quick eye 
presently detected — namely, some printed music, which he 


seized triumphantly and placed before the player. What 
he wanted was " music played from a book." 

Being asked whether he preferred a lively or a plaintive 
melody, he replied that " he did not care, so long as it was 

Now it chanced that he had pitched upon a volume of 
Wagner; so the little lady took him at his word and gave 
him a dose of " Tannhaiiser." Strange to say, he was de- 
lighted. He showed his teeth ; he rolled his eyes ; he 
uttered the long-drawn "Ah!'' which in Egypt signifies 
applause. The more crabbed, the more far-fetched, the 
more unintelligible the movement, the better, apparently, 
he liked it. 

I never think of Assuan but I remember that curious 
scene — our little lady at the piano; the black governor 
grinning in ecstasies close by ; the kadi in his magnificent 
shawl-turban ; the mudir half asleep ; the air thick with 
tobacco-smoke; and above all — dominant, tyrannous, over- 
powering — the crash and clang, the involved harmonies, 
and the multitudinous combinations of Tannhaiiser. 

The linked sweetness of an oriental visit is generally 
drawn out to a length that sorely tries the patience and 
politeness of European hosts. A native gentleman, if he 
has any business to attend to, gets through his work before 
noon, and has nothing to do but smoke, chat, and doze 
away the remainder of the day. For time, which hangs 
heavily on his hands, he has absolutely no value. His 
main object in life is to consume it, if possible, less tedi- 
ously. He pays a visit, therefore, with the deliberate 
intention of staying as long as possible. Our guests on the 
present occasion remained the best part of two hours ; and 
the governor, who talked of going to England shortly, 
asked for all our names and addresses, that he might come 
and see us at home. 

Leaving the cabin, he paused to look at our roses, which 
stood near the door. We told him they had been given to 
us by the Bey of Erment. 

" Do they grow at Erment?" he asked, examining them 
with great curiosity. "How beautiful! Why will they 
not grow in Nubia?" 

We suggested that the climate was probably too hot for 

He stooped, inhaling their perfume. He looked puzzled. 


" They are very sweet," lie said. " Are they roses?" 

The question gave us a kind of shock. We could hardly 
believe we had reached a land where roses were unknown. 
Yet the governor, who had smoked a rose-water narghile 
and drunk rose-sherbet and eaten conserve of roses all his 
days, recognized them by their perfume only. He had 
never been out of Assuan in his life; not even as far as 
Erment. And he had never seen a rose in bloom. 

We had hoped to begin the passage of the cataract on 
the morning of the day following our arrival at the frontier; 
but some other dahabeeyah, it seemed, was in the act of 
fighting its way up to Philas ; and till that boat was 
through, neither the sheik nor his men would be ready 
for us. At eight o'clock in the morning of the next day 
but one, however, they promised to take us in hand. We 
were to pay £12 English for the double journey; that is to 
say, £9 down ; and the remaining £3 on our return to 

Such was the treaty concluded between ourselves and 
the sheik of the cataract at a solemn conclave over which 
the governor, assisted by the kadi and mudir, presided. 

Having a clear day to spend at Assuan, we of course 
gave part thereof to Elephantine, which in the inscrip- 
tions is called Abu, or the Ivory Island. There may per- 
haps have been a depot, or " treasure-city," here for the 
precious things of the Upper Nile country ; the gold of 
Nubia and the elephant-tusks of Kush. 

It is a very beautiful island — rugged and lofty to the 
south • low and fertile to the north ; with an exquisitely 
varied coast-line full of wooded creeks and miniature 
beaches in which one might expect at any moment to meet 
Eobinson Crusoe with his goat-skin umbrella, or man 
Friday bending under a load of faggots. They are all 
Fridays here, however ; for Elephantine, being the first 
Nubian outpost, is peopled by Nubians only. It contains 
two Nubian villages, and the mounds of a very ancient 
city which was the capital of all Egypt under the Pharaohs 
of the sixth dynasty, between three and four thousand years 
before Christ. Two temples, one of which dated from the 
reign of Ainenhotep III, were yet standing here some 
seventy years ago. They were seen by Belzoni in 1815, 
and had just been destroyed to build a palace and barracks 
when Champollion went up in 18'-39. A ruined gateway of 


the Ptolemaic period and a forlorn-looking sitting statue of 
Menephtah, the supposed Pharaoh of the exodus, alone 
remain to identify the sites on which they stood. 

Thick palm-groves and carefully tilled patches of castor- 
oil and cotton plants, lentils, and durra, make green the 
heart of the island. The western shore is wooded to the 
water's edge. One may walk here in the shade at hottest 
noon, listening to the murmur of the cataract and seeking 
for wild flowers — which, however, would seem to hlossom 
nowhere save in the sweet Arabic name of Geziret-el-Zahr, 
the island of flowers. 

Upon the high ground at the southern extremity of the 
island, among rubbish heaps, and bleached bones, and 
human skulls, and the sloughed skins of snakes, and piles 
of party-colored potsherds, we picked up several bits of in- 
scribed terra-cotta — evidently fragments of broken vases. 
The writing was very faint, and in part obliterated. We 
could see that the characters were Greek; but not even our 
idle man was equal to making out a word of the sense. 
Believing them to be mere disconnected scraps to which it 
would be impossible to find the corresponding pieces — 
taking it for granted, also, that they were of comparatively 
modern date — we brought away some three or four as 
souvenirs of the place, and thought no more about them. 

We little dreamed that Dr. Birch, in his cheerless official 
room at the British Museum so many thousand miles away, 
was at this very time occupied in deciphering a collection 
of similar fragments, nearly all of which had been brought 
from this same spot.* Of the curious interest attaching to 

* The results of Dr. Birch's labors were given to the public in 
his " Guide to tbe First and Second Egyptian Rooms," published by 
order of the trustees of tbe British Museum in May, 1874. Of the 
contents of case ninety-nine in the "second room," he says: "The 
use of potsherds for documents received a great extension at the 
time of the Roman empire, when receipts for the taxes were given 
on these fragments by the collectors of revenue at Elephantine or 
Syene, on the frontier of Egypt. These receipts commenced in the 
reign of Vespasian, A. D. 77, and are found as late as M. Aureliusand 
L. Verus, A. d. 165. It appears from them that the capitation and 
trades tax, which was sixteen drams in A. D. 77, rose to twenty in 
A. D. 165, having steadily increased. The dues were paid in install- 
ments called merismoi, at three periods of the year. The taxes were 
farmed out to publicans {mixthotai), who appear from their names to 
have been Greeks. At Elephantine the taxes were received by tax- 
gatherers {prakteres), who seem to have been appointed as early as 


these illegible scrawls, of the importance they were shortly 
to acquire in the eyes of the learned, of the possible value 
of any chance additions to their number we knew, and 
could know, nothing. Six months later we lamented our 
ignorance and our lost opportunities. 

For the Egyptians, it seems, used potsherds instead of 
papyrus for short memoranda; and each of these fragments 
which we had picked up contained a record complete in 
itself. I fear we should have laughed if any one had sug- 
gested that they might be tax-gatherers' receipts. Yet 
that is just what they were — receipts for government dues 
collected on the frontier during the period of Roman rule 
in Egypt. They were written in Greek, because the 
Romans deputed Greek scribes to perform the duties of 
this unpopular office; but the Greek is so corrupt and the 
penmanship so clownish that only a few eminent scholars 
can read them. 

Not all the inscribed fragments found at Elephantine, 
however, are tax-receipts, or written in bad Greek. The 
British Museum contains several in the demotic, or current, 
script of the people, and a few in the more learned hieratic, 
or priestly, hand. The former have not yet been translated. 
They are probably business memoranda and short private 
letters of Egyptians of the same period. 

But how came these fragile documents to be preserved, 
when the city in which their writers lived, and the temples 
in which they worshiped, have disappeared and left scarce 

the Ptolemies. Their clerks were Egyptians, and they had a chest 
and treasure (phylax)." See p. 109, as above; also Birch's "History 
of Ancient Pottery," chap. 1, p. 45. 

These barren memoranda are not the only literary curiosities found 
at Elephantine. Among the Egyptian manuscripts of the Louvre may 
be seen some fragments of the eighteenth book of the " Iliad," dis- 
covered in a tomb upon the island. How they came to be buried 
there no one knows. A lover of poetry would like to think, how- 
ever, that some Greek or Roman officer, dying at his post upon this 
distant station, desired, perhaps, to have his Homer laid with him in 
his grave. 

Note to Second Edition. — Other fragments of ' ' Iliad " have 
been found from time to time in various parts of Egypt; some (now 
in the Louvre) being scrawled, like the above-mentioned tax-receipts, 
on mere potsherds. The finest specimen ever found in Egypt or 
elsewhere, and the earliest, has, however, been discovered this year, 
1888, by Mr. Flinders Petrie in the grave of a woman at Hawara, in 
the Fayum, 


a trace behind ? Who cast them down among the pot- 
sherds on this barren hillside? Are we to suppose that 
some kind of public record office once occupied the site, 
and that the receipts here stored were duplicates of those 
given to the payers? Or is it not even more probable that 
this place was the Monte Testaccio of the ancient city, to 
which all broken pottery, written as well as unwritten, 
found its way sooner or later? 

With the exception of a fine fragment of Eoman quay 
nearly opposite Assuan, the ruined gateway of Alexander 
and the battered statue of Menephtah are the only objects 
of archaeological interest in the island. But the charm of 
Elephantine is the everlasting charm of natural beauty — 
of rocks, of ]3alm-woods, of quiet waters. 

The streets of Assuan are just like the streets of every 
other mud town on the Xile. The bazaars reproduce 
the bazaars of Minieh and Siut. The environs are 
noisy with cafes and dancing-girls, like the environs of 
Esneh and Luxor. Into the mosque, where some kind 
of service was going on, we peeped without entering. It 
looked cool, and clean, and spacious; the floor being 
covered with fine matting, and some scores of ostrich- 
eggs depending from the ceiling. In the bazaars we 
bought baskets and mats of Nubian manufacture, woven 
with the same reeds, dyed with the same colors, shaped after 
the same models, as those found in the tombs at Thebes. A 
certain oval basket with a vaulted cover, of which specimens 
are preserved in the British Museum, seems still to be the 
pattern most in demand at Assuan. The basket-makers 
have neither changed their fashion nor the buyers their 
taste since the days of Rameses the Great. 

Here also, at a little cupboard of a shop near the shoe 
bazaar, we were tempted to speud a few pounds in ostrich 
feathers, which are conveyed to Assuan by traders from 
the Soudan. The merchant brought out a feather at a 
time, and seemed in uo haste to sell. We also affected 
indifference. The haggling on both sides was tremendous. 
The by-standers, as usual, were profoundly interested, and 
commented on every word that passed. At last we carried 
away an armful of splendid plumes, most of which 
measured from two and a half to three feet in length. 
Some were pure white, others white tipped with brown. 
They had been neither cleaned nor curled, but were just as 
they came from the hands of the ostrich-hunters, 


By far the most amusing sight in Assuan was the traders' 
camp down near the landing-place. Here were Abyssinians 
like slender-legged baboons; wild-looking Bishariyah and 
Ababdeh Arabs with flashing eyes and flowing hair; sturdy 
Nubians the color of a Barbedienne bronze ; and natives 
of all tribes and shades, from Kordofan and Sennar, the 
deserts of the Bahuda and the banks of the Blue and White 
Niles. Some were running from Cairo; others were on 
their way thither. Some, having disembarked their mer- 
chandise at Mahatta (a village on the other side of the 
cataract), had come across the desert to re-embark it at 
Assuan. Others had just disembarked theirs at Assuan, 
in order to re-embark it at Mahatta. Meanwhile, they 
were living sub jove; each intrenched in his own little re- 
doubt of piled-up bales and packing-cases, like a spider in 
the center of his web; each provided with a kettle and 
coffee-pot, and an old rug to sleep and pray upon. One 
sulky old Turk had fixed up a roof of matting, and fur- 
nished his den with a leaf as, or palm-wood couch; but he 
was a self-indulgent exception to the rule. 

Some smiled, some scowled, when we passed through 
the camp. One offered us coffee. Another, more obliging 
than the rest, displayed the contents of his packages. Great 
bundles of lion and leopard skins, bales of cotton, sacks 
of henna-leaves, elephant-tusks swathed in canvas and 
matting, strewed the sandy bank. Of gum-arabic alone there 
must have been several hundred bales; each bale sewed 
up in a raw hide and tied with thongs of hippopotamus 
leather. Toward dusk, when the camp-fires were alight 
and the evening meal was in course of preparation, the 
scene became wonderfully picturesque. Lights gleamed; 
shadows deepened; strange figures stalked to and fro, or 
squatted in groups amid their merchandise. Some were 
baking flat cakes; others stirring soup, or roasting coffee. 
A hole scooped in the sand, a couple of stones to support 
the kettle, and a handful of dry sticks, served for kitchen 
range and fuel. Meanwhile all the dogs in Assuan prowled 
round the camp, and a jargon of barbaric tongues came 
and went with the breeze that followed the sunset. 

I must not forget to add that among this motley crowd 
we saw two brothers, natives of Khartum. We met them 
first in the town, and afterward in the camp. They wore 
voluminous white turbans and flowing robes of some kind 


of creamy cashmere cloth. Their small proud heads and 
delicate aristocratic features were modeled on the purest 
Florentine type; their eyes were long and liquid; their 
complexions, free from any taint of Abyssinian blue or 
Nubian bronze, were intensely, lustrously, magnificently 
black. We agreed that we had never seen two such hand- 
some men. They were like young and beautiful Dantee 
carved in ebony; Dantes unembittered by the world, 
unsicklied by the pale cast of thought, and glowing with 
the life of the warm south. 

Having explored Elephantine and ransacked the bazaars, 
our party dispersed in various directions. Some gave the 
remainder of the day to letter-writing. The painter, bent 
on sketching, started off in search of a jackal-haunted 
ruin up a wild ravine on the Libyan side of the river. 
The writer and the idle man boldly mounted camels and 
rode out into the Arabian desert. 

Now the camel-riding that is done at Assuan is of the 
most commonplace description, and bears to genuine desert 
traveling about the same relation that half an hour on the 
Mer de Glace bears to the passage of the Mortaretsch 
glacier or the ascent of Monte Rosa. The short cut from 
Assuan to Philae, or at least the ride to the granite quarries, 
forms part of every dragoman's programme, and figures as 
the crowning achievement of every Cook's tourist. The 
Arabs themselves perform these little journeys much more 
pleasantly and expeditiously on donkeys. They take good 
care, in fact, never to scale the summit of a camel if they 
can help it. But for the impressionable traveler, the 
Assuan camel is de rigueur. In his interests are those 
snarling quadrupeds, betasseled and berugged, taken 
from their regular work, and paraded up and down the 
landing-place. To transport cargoes disembarked above 
and below the cataract is their vocation. Taken from this 
honest calling to perform in an absurd little drama got up 
especially for the entertainment of tourists, it is no wonder 
if the beasts are more than commonly ill-tempered. They 
know the whole proceeding to be essentially cockney, and 
they resent it accordingly. 

The ride, nevertheless, has its advantages; not the least 
being that it enables one to realize the kind of work 
involved in any of the regular desert expeditions. At all 
events, it entitles one to claim acquaintance with the ship 


of the desert, and (bearing in mind the probable inferiority 
of the specimen) to form an ex pede judgment of his qual- 

The camel has his virtues — so much at least must be 
admitted; but they do not lie upon the surface. My 
Buffo n tells me, for instance, that he carries a fresh-water 
cistern in his stomach; which is meritorious. But the 
cistern ameliorates neither his gait nor his temper — which 
are abominable. Irreproachable as a beast of burden, he 
is open to many objections as a steed. It is unpleasant, in 
the first place, to ride an animal which not only objects to 
being ridden, but cherishes a strong personal antipathy to 
his rider. Such, however, is his amiable peculiarity. 
You know that he hates you, from the moment you first 
walk round him, wondering where and how to begin the 
ascent of his hump. He does not, in fact, hesitate to tell 
you so in the roundest terms. He swears freely while you 
are taking your seat; snarls if you but move in the saddle; 
and stares you angrily in the face if you attempt to turn 
his head in any direction save that which he himself 
prefers. Should you persevere, he tries to bite your feet. 
If biting your feet does not answer, he lies down. 

Now the lying down and getting up of a camel are 
performances designed for the express purpose of inflicting 
grievous bodily harm upon his rider. Thrown twice for- 
ward and twice backward, punched in his "wind "and 
damaged in his spine, the luckless novice receives four dis- 
tinct shocks, each more violent and unexpected than the last. 
For this "execrable hunchback" is fearfully and wonder- 
fully made. He has a superfluous joint somewhere in his 
legs and uses it to revenge himself upon mankind. 

His paces, however, are more complicated than his 
joints and more trying than his temper. He has four : a 
short walk, like the rolling of a small boat in a chopping 
sea; a long walk, which dislocates every bone in your body; 
a trot that reduces you to imbecility; and a gallop that is 
sudden death. One tries in vain to imagine a crime for 
which the peine forte et dare of sixteen hours on camel- 
back would not be a full and sufficient expiation. It is a 
punishment to which one would not willingly be the means 
of condemning any human being — not even a reviewer. 

They had been down on the bank for hire all day long — 
brown camels and white camels, shaggy camels and smooth 


camels; all with gay worsted tassels on their heads and 
rugs flung over their high wooden saddles, by way of 
housings. The gentlemen of the Fostat had ridden away 
hours ago, cross-legged and serene; and we had witnessed 
their demeanor with mingled admiration and envy. Now, 
modestly conscious of our own daring, we prepared to do 
likewise. It was a solemn moment when, having chosen 
our beasts, we prepared to encounter the unknown perils 
of the desert. What wonder if the happy couple exchanged 
an affecting farewell at parting? 

We mounted and rode away; two imps of darkness fol- 
lowing at the heels of our camels and Salame performing 
the part of body-guard. Thus attended, we found our- 
selvelves pitched, swung and rolled along at a pace that 
carried us rapidly up the slope, past a suburb full of cafes 
and grinning dancing-girls and out into the desert. Our 
way for the first half-mile or so lay among tombs. A 
great Mohammedan necropolis, part ancient, part modern, 
lies behind Assuan and covers more ground than the town 
itself. Some scores of tiny mosques, each topped by its 
little cupola and all more or less dilapidated, stand here 
amid a wilderness of scattered tombstones. Some are 
isolated; some grouped picturesquely together. Each 
covers, or is supposed to cover, the grave of a Moslem 
santon; but some are mere commemorative chapels dedi- 
cated to saints and martyrs elsewhere buried. Of simple 
headstones defaced, shattered, overturned, propped back 
to back on cairns of loose stones, or piled in broken and 
dishonored heaps, there must be many hundreds. They 
are for the most part rounded at the top like ancient 
Egyptian stela? and bear elaborately carved inscriptions, 
some of which are in the Cufic character and more than a 
thousand years old. Seen when the sun is bending west- 
ward and the shadows are lengthening, there is something 
curiously melancholy and picturesque about this city of the 
dead in the dead desert. 

Leaving the tombs, we now strike off toward the left, 
bound for the obelisk in the quarry, which is the stock 
sight of the place. The horizon beyond Assuan is bounded 
on all sides by rocky heights, bold and picturesque in 
form, yet scarcely lofty enough to deserve the name of 
mountains. The' sandy bottom under our camel's feet is 
strewn with small pebbles and tolerably firm. Clustered 


rocks of black and red granite profusely inscribed with 
hieroglypbed records crop up here and there and serve as 
landmarks just where landmarks are needed. For nothing 
would be easier than to miss one's way among these tawny 
slopes and to go wandering off, like lost Israelites, into the 

Winding in and out among undulating hillocks and 
tracts of rolled bowlders, we come at last to a little group 
of cliffs, at the foot of which our camels halt unbidden. 
Here we dismount, climb a short slope and find the huge 
monolith at our feet. 

Being cut horizontally, it lies half-buried in drifted sand, 
with nothing to show that it is not wholly disengaged 
and ready for transport. Our books tell us, however, that 
the under-cutting has never been done and that it is 
yet one with the granite bottom on which it seems to lie. 
Both ends are hidden; but one can pace some sixty feet 
of its yet visible surface. That surface bears the tool- 
marks of the workmen. A slanting groove pitted with 
wedge-holes indicates where it was intended to taper to- 
ward the top. Another shows where it was to be reduced 
at the sides. Had it been finished, this would have been 
the largest obelisk in the world. The great obelisk of 
Queen Hatshepsu at Karnak, which, as its inscriptions 
record, came also from Assuan, stands ninety-two feet high 
and measures eight feet square at the base;* but this which 
lies sleeping in the desert would have stood ninety-five feet 
in the shaft, and have measured over eleven feet square at 
the base. We can never know now why it was left here, nor 
guess with what royal name it should have been inscribed. 
Had the king said in his heart that he would set up a 
mightier obelisk than was ever yet seen by eyes of men, 
and did he die before the block could be extracted from 
the quarry? Or were the quarry men driven from the 
desert, and the Pharaoh from his throne, by the hungry 
hordes of Ethiopia, or Syria, or the islands beyond the 
sea ? The great stone may be older than Rameses the 
Great, or as modern as the last of the Romans; but to give 
it a date, or to divine its history, is impossible. Egypt- 

* These are the measurements given in Murray's hand-book. The 
new English translation of Mariette's "Itineraire de la Haute Egypte" 
gives the obelisk of Hatshepsu one hundred and eight feet ten inches 
in height. See "The Monuments of Upper Egypt," translated by 
Alphonse Mariette, London, 1877. 


ology, which has solved the enigma of the sphinx, is power- 
less here. The obelisk of the quarry holds its secret safe, 
and holds it forever. 

Ancient Egyptian quarrying is seen under its most strik- 
ing aspect among extensive limestone or sandstone ranges, 
as at Turra and Silsilis; but the process by which the stone 
was extracted can nowhere be more distinctly traced than at 
Assuan. In some respects, indeed, the quarries here, though 
on a smaller scale than those lower down the river, are 
even more interesting. Nothing surprises one at Silsilis, 
for instance, more than economy with which the sandstone 
has been cut from the heart of the mountain; but at As- 
suan, as the material was more precious, so does the econ- 
omy seem to have been still greater. At Silsilis, the yel- 
low cliffs have been sliced as neatly as the cheese in a cheese- 
monger's window. Smooth, upright walls alone mark the 
place where the work has been done; and the amount of 
debris is altogether insignificant. But at Assuan, when, 
extracting granite for sculptural purposes, they attacked 
the form of the object required and cut it out roughly to 
shape. The great obelisk is but one of the many cases in 
point. In the same group of rocks, or one very closely ad- 
joining, we saw a rough-hewn column, erect and three 
parts detached, as well as the semi-cylindrical hollow from 
which its fellow had been taken. One curious recess from 
which a quadrant-shaped mass had been cut away puzzled 
us immensely. In other places the blocks appeared to 
have been coffer shaped. We sought in vain, however, for 
the broken sarcophagus mentioned in Murray. 

But the drifted sands, we may be sure, hide more pre- 
cious things than these. Inscriptions are probably as 
abundant here as in the breccia of Hamamat. The great 
obelisk must have had a fellow, if we only knew where to 
look for it. The obelisks of Queen Ilatshepsu, and the 
sarcophagi of famous kings, might possibly be traced to 
their beds in these quarries. So might the casing-stones 
of the Pyramid of Menkara, the massive slabs of the Tem- 
ple of the Sphinx, and the walls of the sanctuary of 
Philip Aridasusat Karnak. Above all, the syenite Colos- 
sus of the Eamesseum and the Colossus of Tanis,* which 

* For an account of the discovery of this enormous statue and tlie 
measurements of its various parts, see "Tanis," Part I, by W. M. 
Flinders Petrie, chap, ii, pp. 22 et seq., published by the Egypt Ex- 
ploration Fund, 1885. [Note to second edition.] 


was the largest detached statue in the world, must each 
have left its mighty matrix among the rocks close by. But 
these, like the song of the sirens or the alias of Achilles, 
though " not beyond all conjecture," are among the things 
that will never now be discovered. 

As regards the process of quarrying at Assuan, it seems 
that rectangular granite blocks were split off here, as the 
softer limestone and sandstone elsewhere, by means of 
wooden wedges. These were fitted to holes already cut for 
their reception; and, being saturated with water, split the 
hard rock by mere force of expansion. Every quarried 
mass hereabouts is marked with rows of these wedge- 

Passing by the way a tiny oasis where there were camels 
and a well, and an idle water-wheel, and a patch of 
emerald-green barley, we next rode back nearly to the out- 
skirts of Assuan, where, in a dismal hollow on the verge of 
the desert, may be seen a small, half-buried temple of 
Ptolemaic times. Traces of color are still visible on the 
winged globe under the cornice, and on some mutilated 
bas-reliefs at either side of the principal entrance. Seeing 
that the interior was choked with rubbish, we made no 
attempt to go inside ; but rode away again without 

And now, there being still an hour of daylight, we sig- 
nified our intention of making for the top of the nearest 
hill, in order to see the sun set This, clearly, was an 
unheard of innovation. The camel boys stared, shook 
their heads, protested there was " mafeesh sikkeh " (no 
road), and evidently regarded as as lunatics. The camels 
planted their splay feet obstinately in the sand, tried to 
turn back, and, when obliged to yield to the force of cir- 
cumstances, abused us all the way. Arrived at the top, 
we found ourselves looking down upon the Island of Ele- 
phantine, with the Nile, the town, and the dahabeeyahs at 
our feet. A prolongation of the ridge on which we were 
standing led, however, to another height crowned by a 
ruined tomb; and seemed to promise a view of the cataract. 
Seeing us prepare to go on, the camel boys broke into a 
furor of remonstrance, which, but for Salame's big stick, 
would have ended in downright mutiny. Still we pushed 
forward, and, still dissatisfied, insisted on attacking a 
third summit. The boys now trudged on in sullen des- 


pair. The sun was sinking ; the way was steep and diffi- 
cult ; the night would soon come on. If the howadji 
chose to break their necks, it concerned nobody but them- 
selves; but if the camels broke theirs, who was to pay for 

Such — expressed half in broken Arabic, half in gestures 
— were the sentiments of our youthful Nubians. Nor were 
the camels themselves less emphatic. They grinned; they 
sniffed ; they snorted ; they snarled ; they disputed every 
foot of the way. As for mine (a gawky, supercilious 
beast with a bloodshot eye and a battered Eoman nose), I 
never heard any dumb animal make use of so much bad 
language in my life. 

The last hill was very steep and stony ; but the view 
from the top was magnificent. We had now gained the 
highest point of the ridge which divides the valley of the 
Nile from the Arabian desert. The cataract, widening 
away reach after reach and studded with innumerable 
rocky islets, looked more like a lake than a river. Of the 
Libyan desert we could see nothing beyond the opposite 
sand-slopes, gold-rimmed against the sunset. The Arabian 
desert, a boundless waste edged by a serrated line of pur- 
ple peaks, extended eastward to the remotest horizon. We 
looked down upon it as on a raised map. The Moslem 
tombs, some five hundred feet below, showed like toys. 
To the right, in a wide valley opening away southward, 
we recognized that ancient bed of the Nile which serves 
for the great highway between Egypt and Nubia. At the 
end of the vista, some very distant palms against a rocky 
background pointed the way to Philae. 

Meanwhile the sun was fast sinking — the lights were 
crimsoning — the shadows were lengthening. All was 
silent ; all was solitary. We listened, but could scarcely 
hear the murmur of the rapids. We looked in vain for 
the quarry of the obelisk. It was but one group of rocks 
among scores of others, and to distinguish it at this dis- 
tance was impossible. 

Presently, a group of three or four black figures, 
mounted on little gray asses, came winding in and out 
among the tombs, and took the road to Phila?. To us 
they were moving specks; but our lynx-eyed camel boys at 
once recognized the " Sheik el Shelhil " (sheik of the cata- 
ract) and his retinue. More dahabeeyahs had come in; 


and the worthy man, having spent the clay in Assuan 
visiting, palavering, bargaining, whs now going home to 
Mahatta for the night. We watched the retreating riders 
for some minutes, till twilight stole up the ancient channel 
like a flood and drowned them in warm shadows. 

The after-glow had faded off the heights when we at 
length crossed the last ridge, descended the last hillside, 
and regained the level from which we had started. Here once 
more we met the Fostat party. They had ridden to Philae 
and back by the desert and were apparently all the worse 
for wear. Seeing us they urged their camels to a trot and 
tried to look as if they liked it. The idle man and the 
writer wreathed their countenances in ghastly smiles and 
did likewise. Not for worlds would they have admitted 
that they found the pace difficult. Such is the moral in- 
fluence of the camel. He acts as a tonic; he promotes 
the Spartan virtues; and if not himself heroic, is, at least, 
the cause of heroism in others. 

It was nearly dark when we reached Assuan. The cafes 
were all alight and astir. There was smoking and coffee- 
drinking going on outside ; there were sounds of music 
and laughter within. A large private house on the opposite 
side of the road was being decorated as if for some festive 
occasion. Flags were flying from the roof, and two men 
were busy putting up a gayly-painted inscription over the 
doorway. Asking, as was natural, if there was a marriage 
or a fantasia afoot, it was not a little startling to be told 
that these were signs of mourning, and that the master of 
the house had died during the interval that elapsed between 
our riding out and riding back again. 

In Egypt, where the worship of ancestry and the pres- 
ervation of the body were once among the most sacred du- 
ties of the living, they now make short work with their 
dead. He was to be buried, they said, to-morrow morning, 
three hours after sunrise. 




At Assuan one bids good-by to Egypt and enters Nubia 
through the gates of the cataract — which is, in truth, no 
cataract but a succession of rapids extending over two- 
thirds of the distance between Elephantine and Philse. 
The Nile — diverted from its original course by some unre- 
corded catastrophe, the nature of which has given rise to 
much scientific conjecture — here spreads itself over a rocky 
basin bounded by sand-slopes on the one side and by gran- 
ite cliffs on the other. Studded with numberless islets, 
divided into numberless channels, foaming over sunken 
rocks, eddying among water-worn bowlders, now shallow, 
now deep, now loitering, now hurrryiug, here sleeping in 
the ribbed hollow of a tiny sand-drift, there circling above 
the vortex of a hidden whirlpool, the river, whether looked 
upon from the deck of the dahabeeyah or the heights along 
the shore, is seen everywhere to be fighting its way through 
a labyrinth, the paths of which have never yet been mapped 
or sounded. 

Those paths are everywhere difficult and everywhere 
dangerous; and to that labyrinth the shellalee, or cataract 
Arab, alone possesses the key. At the time of the inunda- 
tion, when all but the highest rocks are under water and 
navigation is as easy here as elsewhere, the shellalee's oc- 
cupation is gone. But as the floods subside and travelers 
begin to reappear, his work commences. To haul daha- 
beeyahs up those treacherous rapids by sheer stress of rope 
and muscle; to steer skillfully down again through channels 
bristling with rocks and boiling with foam, becomes now, 
for some five months of the year, his principal industry. 
It is hard work, but he gets well paid for it, and his profits 
are always on the increase. From forty to fifty dahabee- 
yahs are annually taken up between November and March; 


and every year brings a larger influx of travelers. Mean- 
while, accidents rarely happen; prices tend continually up- 
ward; and the cataract-Arabs make a little fortune by their 
singular monopoly.* 

The scenery of the first cataract is like nothing else in the 
world — except the scenery of the second. It is altogether 
new, and strange, and beautiful. It is incomprehensible 
that travelers should have written of it in general with so 
little admiration. They seem to have been impressed by 
the wildness of the waters, by the quaint forms of the 
rocks, by the desolation and grandeur of the landscape as 
a whole; but scarcely at all by its beauty — which is 

The Nile here widens to a lake. Of the islands, which 
it would hardly be an exaggeration to describe as some 
hundreds in number, no two are alike. Some are piled up 
like the rocks at the Land's End in Cornwall, block upon 
block, column upon column, tower upon tower, as if 
reared by the hand of man. Some are green with grass; 
some golden with slopes of drifted sand; some planted with 
rows of blossoming lupins, purple and white. Others 
again are mere cairns of loose blocks, with here and there a 
perilously balanced top-bowlder. On one, a singular 
upright monolith, like a menhir, stands conspicuous, as if 
placed there to commemorate a date, or to point the way 
to Philae. Another mass rises out of the water squared 
and buttressed, in the likeness of a fort. A third, humped 
and shining like the wet body of some amphibious beast, 
lifts what seems to be a horned head above the surface of 
the rapids. All these blocks and bowlders and fantastic 
rocks are granite; some red, some purple, some black. 
Their forms are rounded by the friction of ages. Those 
nearest the brink reflect the sky like mirrors of burnished 
steel. Royal ovals and hieroglyphed inscriptions, fresh as 
of yesterday's cutting, start out here and there from those 
glittering surfaces with startling distinctness. A few of 
the larger islands are crowned with clumps of palms; and 

* The increase of steamer traffic bas considerably altered tbe con- 
ditions of Nile traveling since tbis was written, and fewer dababee- 
yabs are consequently employed. By tbose wbo can afford it, and 
who really desire to get tbe utmost pleasure, instruction, and interest 
from tbe trip, tbe dababeeyab will, however, always be preferred, 
[Note to second edition.] 


one, the loveliest of any, is completely embowered in gum- 
trees and acacias, dom and date palms, and feathery 
tamarisks, all festooned together under a hanging canopy 
of yellow-blossomed creepers. 

On a brilliant .Sunday morning, with a favorable wind, 
we entered on this fairy archipelago. Sailing steadily 
against the current, we glided away from Assuan, left 
Elephantine behind, and found ourselves at once in the 
midst of the islands. From this moment every turn of the 
tiller disclosed a fresh point of view, and we sat on deck, 
spectators of a moving panorama. The diversity of sub- 
jects was endless. The combinations of form and color, of 
light and shadow, of foreground and distance, were 
continually changing. A boat or a few figures alone were 
wanting to complete the picturesqueness of the scene; but 
in all those channels, and among all those islands, we saw 
no sign of any living creature. 

Meanwhile the sheik of the cataract — a flat-faced, 
fishy-eyed old Nubian, with his head tied up in a dingy 
yellow silk handkerchief — sat apart in solitary grandeur 
at the stern, smoking a long chibouque. Behind him 
squatted some five or six dusky strangers; and a new steers- 
man, black as a negro, had charge of the helm. This new 
steersman was our pilot for Nubia. From Assuan to Wady 
Halfeh, and back again to Assuan, he alone was now held 
responsible for the safety of the dahabeeyah and all on 

At length a general stir among the crew warned us of 
the near neighborhood of the first rapid. Straight ahead, 
as if ranged along the dike of a weir, a chain of small 
islets barred the way; while the current, divided into three 
or four headlong torrents, came rushing down the slope, 
and reunited at the bottom in one tumultuous race. 

That we should ever get the Phila? up that hill of 
moving water seemed at first sight impossible. Still our 
steersman held on his course, making for the widest 
channel. Still the sheik smoked imperturbably. 
Presently, without removing the pipe from his mouth, lie 
delivered the one word — " Roohh!" " Forward!" 

Instantly, evoked by his nod, the rocks swarmed with 
natives. Hidden till now in all sorts of unseen corners, 
they sprang out shouting, gesticulating, laden with coils of 
rope, leaping into the thick of the rapids, splashing like 


water-dogs, bobbing like corks, and making as much show 
of energy as if they were going to haul us up Niagara. 
The tiling was evidently a coup tie theatre, like the appari- 
tion of Clan Alpine's warriors in the Donna del Lago — with 
backshish in the background. The scene that followed 
was curious enough. Two rojies were carried from the 
dahabeeyah to the nearest island, and there made fast to 
the rocks. Two ropes from the island were also brought 
on board the dahabeeyah. A double file of men on deck, 
and another double rile on shore, then ranged themselves 
along the ropes; the sheik gave the signal; and, to a wild 
chanting accompaniment and a movement like a barbaric 
Sir Roger de Coverley dance, a system of double hauling 
began, by means of which the huge boat slowly and 
steadily ascended. We may have been a quarter of an 
hour going up the incline; though it seemed much longer. 
Meanwhile, as they warmed to their work, the men chanted 
louder and pulled harder, till the boat went in at last with 
a rush, and swung over into a pool of comparatively 
smooth water. 

Having moored here for an hour's rest, we next repeated 
the performance against a still stronger current a little 
higher up. This time, however, a rope broke. Down 
went the haulers, like a row of cards suddenly tipped 
over — round swung the Phila?, receiving the whole rush of 
the current on her beam! Luckily for us, the other rope 
held fast against the strain. Had it also broken, we must 
have been wrecked then and there ignominiously. 

Our Nubian auxiliaries struck work after this. Fate, 
they said, was adverse; so they went home, leaving us 
moored for the night in the pool at the top of the first 
rapid. The sheik promised, however, that his people 
should begin work next morning at dawn, and get us 
through before sunset. Next morning came, however, and 
not a man appeared upon the scene. At about midday 
they began dropping in, a few at a time; hung about in a 
languid, lazy way for a couple of hours or so; moved us 
into a better position for attacking the next rapid; and 
then melted away mysteriously by twos and threes among 
the rocks, and were no more seen. 

We now felt that our time and money were being reck- 
lessly squandered, and we resolved to bear it no longer. 
Our painter therefore undertook to remonstrate with the 


sheik, and to convince him of the error of his ways. The 
sheik listened; smoked; shook his head; replied that in 
the cataract, as elsewhere, there were lucky and unlucky 
days, days when men felt inclined to work, and days when 
they felt disinclined. To-day as it happened, they felt 
disinclined. Being reminded that it was unreasonable 
to keep us three days going up five miles of river, and that 
there was a governor at Assuan to whom we should appeal 
to-morrow unless the work went on in earnest, he smiled, 
shrugged his shoulders, and muttered something about 

Now the painter, being of a practical turn, had compiled 
for himself a little vocabulary of choice Arabic maledic- 
tions, which he carried in his note-book for reference when 
needed. Having no faith in its possible usefulness, we 
were amused by the industry with which he was constantly 
adding to this collection. We looked upon it, in fact, as 
a harmless pleasantry — just as we looked upon his pocket- 
revolver, which was never loaded ; or his brand-new 
fowling-piece, which he was never known to fire. 

But the sheik of the cataract had gone too far. The 
fatuity of that smile would have exasperated the meekest 
of men; and our painter was not the meekest of men. So 
he whipped out his pocket-book, ran his finger down the 
line, and delivered an appropriate quotation. His accent 
may not have been faultless; but there could be no mistake 
as to the energy of his style or the vigor of his language. 
The effect of both was instantaneous. The sheik sprang 
to his feet as if he had been shot — turned pale with rage 
under his black skin — vowed the Philae might stay where 
she was till doomsday, for aught that he or his men would 
do to help her a foot farther — bounded into his own rick- 
etty sandal and rowed away, leaving us to our fate. 

We stood aghast. It was all over with us. We should 
never see Abou Simbel now — never write our names on 
the Rock of Aboosir, nor slake our thirst at the waters of 
the second cataract. What was to be done? Must the 
sheik be defied, or propitiated? Should we appeal to the 
governor, or should w T e immolate the painter? The ma- 
jority were for immolating the painter. 

We went to bed that night, despairing ; but lo ! next 
morning at sunrise appeared the sheik of the cata- 
ract, all smiles, all activity, with no end of ropes and a 


force of two hundred men. We were his dearest friends 
now. The painter was his brother. He had called out 
the ban and arriere ban of the cataract in our service. 
There was nothing, in short, that he would not do to 
oblige us. 

The dragoman vowed that he had never seen Nubians 
work as those Nubians worked that day. They fell to like 
giants, tugging away from morn till dewy eve, and never 
giving over till they brought us round the last corner and 
up the last rapid. The sun had set, the after-glow had 
faded, the twilight was closing in, when our dahabeeyah 
slipped at last into level water, and the two hundred, with 
a parting shout, dispersed to their several villages. 

We were never known to make light of the painter's 
repertory of select abuse after this. If that note-book of 
his had been the drowned book of Prospero, or the magical 
Papyrus of Thoth fished up anew from the bottom of the 
Nile, we could not have regarded it with a respect more 
nearly bordering upon awe. 

Though there exists no boundary line to mark where 
Egypt ends and Nubia begins, the nationality of the races 
dwelling on either side of that invisible barrier is as sharply 
defined as though an ocean divided them. Among the 
shellalee, or cataract villagers, one comes suddenly into 
the midst of a people that have apparently nothing in 
common with the population of Egypt. They belong to a 
lower ethnological type, and they speak a language derived 
from purely African sources. Contrasting with our Arab 
sailors the sulky-looking, half-naked, muscular savages 
who thronged about the Philae during her passage up the 
cataract, one could not but perceive that they are to this 
day as distinct and inferior a people as when their Egyp- 
tian conquerors, massing together in one contemptuous 
epithet all nations south of the frontier, were wont to speak 
of them as as " the vile race of Kush." Time has done 
little to change them since those early days. Some Arabic 
words have crept into their vocabulary. Some modern 
luxuries — as tobacco, coffee, soap, and gunpowder — have 
come to be included in the brief catalogue of their daily 
wants. But in most other respects they are living to this 
day as they lived in the time of the Pharaohs ; cultivating 
lentils and durra, brewing barley beer, plaiting mats and 
baskets of stained reeds, tracing rude patterns upon bowls 


of gourd-rind, flinging the javelin, hurling the boomerang, 
fashioning bucklers of crocodile-skin and bracelets of ivory, 
and supplying Egypt with henna. The dexterity with 
which, sitting as if in a wager boat, they balance them- 
selves on a palm-log, and paddle to and fro about the 
river, is really surprising. This barbaric substitute for a 
boat is probably more ancient than the pyramids. 

Having witnessed the passage of the first few rapids, we 
were glad to escape from the dahabeeyah and spend our 
time sketching here and there on the borders of the desert 
and among the villages and islands round about. In all 
Egypt and Nubia there is no scenery richer in picturesque 
bits than the scenery of the cataract. An artist might 
pass a winter there, and not exhaust the pictorial wealth 
of those five miles which divide Assuan from Philse. Of 
tortuous creeks shut in by rocks fantastically piled — of 
sand-slopes golden to the water's edge — of placid pools 
low-lying in the midst of lupin-fields and tracts of tender 
barley — of creaking sakkiehs, half-hidden among palms 
and dropping water as they turn — of mud dwellings, here 
clustered together in hollows, there perched separately on 
heights among the rocks, and perpetuating to this day the 
form and slope of Egyptian pylons — of rude boats drawn 
up in sheltered coves, or going to pieces high and dry upon 
the sands — of water-washed bowlders of crimson, and 
black, and purple granite, on which the wild fowl cluster 
at midday and the fisher spreads his nets to dry at sunset 
— of camels, and caravans, and camps on shore — of cargo- 
boats and caugias on the river — of wild figures of half- 
naked athletes — of dusky women decked with barbaric 
ornaments, unveiled, swift-gliding, trailing long robes of 
deepest gentian blue — of ancient crones, and little naked 
children like live bronzes — of these, and a hundred other 
subjects, in infinite variety and combination, there is liter- 
ally no end. It is all so picturesque, indeed, so biblical, 
so poetical, that one is almost in danger of forgetting that 
the places are something more than beautiful backgrounds, 
and that the people are not merely appropriate figures 
placed there for the delight of sketchers, but are made of 
living flesh and blood, and moved by hopes, and fears, and 
sorrows, like our own. 

Mahatta. green with sycamores and tufted palms, 
nestled in the hollow of a little bay; half-islanded in the 


rear by an arm of backwater, curved and glittering like tbe 
blade of a Turkish cimeter, is by far the most beautifully 
situated village on the Nile. It is the residence of the prin- 
cipal sheik, and, if one may say so, is the capital of the cat- 
aract. The houses lie some way back from the river. The 
bay is thronged with native boats of all sizes and colors. 
Men and camels, women and children, donkeys, dogs, mer- 
chandise and temporary huts, put together with poles and 
matting, crowd the sandy shore. It is Assuan over again, 
but on a larger scale. The shipping is tenfold more 
numerous. The traders' camp is in itself a village. The 
beach is half a mile in length and a quarter of a mile in 
the slope down to the river. Mahatta is, in fact, the twin 
port to Assuan. It lies, not precisely at the other extremity 
of the great valley between Assuan and Philse, but at the 
nearest accessible point above the cataract. It is here that 
the Soudan traders disembark their goods for re-embarka- 
tion at Assuan. Such ricketty, barbaric-looking craft as 
these Nubian cangias we had not yet seen on the river. 
They looked as old and obsolete as the ark. Some had 
curious carved verandas outside the cabin-entrance. 
Others were tilted up at the stern like Chinese junks. 
Most of them had been slavers in the palmy days of Defter- 
dar Bey; plying then as now between Wady Half eh and 
Mahatta, discharging their human cargoes at this point for 
re-shipment at Assuan; and rarely passing the cataract, 
even at the time of inundation. If their wicked old tim- 
bers could have spoken they might have told us many a 
black and bloody tale. 

Going up through the village and palm gardens, and 
turning off in a northeasterly direction toward the desert, 
one presently comes out about midway of that valley to 
which I have made allusion more than once already. No 
one, however unskilled in physical geography, could look 
from end to end of that huge furrow and not see that it was 
once a river-bed. We know not for how many tens of 
thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of years the Nile 
may have held on its course within those original bounds. 
Neither can we tell when it deserted them. It is, 
however, quite certain that the river flowed that way 
within historic times; that is to say, in the days of 
Amenemhat III {circa b. c. 2800). So much is held to be 


proven by certain inscriptions* which record the maximum 
height of the inundation at Semneh during various years 
of that king's reign. The Nile then rose in Ethiopia to a 
level some twenty-seven feet in excess of the highest point 
to which it is ever known to attain at the present day. I 
am not aware what relation the height of this ancient bed 
bears to the levels recorded at Semneh, or to those now 
annually self-registered upon the furrowed banks of Philae; 
but one sees at a glance, without aid of measurements or 
hydrographic science, that if the river were to come down 
again next summer in a mighty "bore," the crest of which 
rose twenty-seven feet above the highest ground now fer- 
tilized by the annual overflow, it would at once refill its 
long-deserted bed and convert Assuan into an island. 

Granted, then, that the Nile flowed through the desert 
in the time of Amenemhat III, there must at some later 
period have come a day when it suddenly ran dry. This 
catastrophe is supposed to have taken place about the 
time of the expulsion of the Ilvksos {circa B.C. 1703), 
when a great disruption of the rocky barrier at Silsilis is 
thought to have taken place; so draining Nubia, which till 

* "The most important discovery which we have made here, and 
which I shall only mention briefly, is a series of short rock inscrip- 
tions, which mark the highest rises of the Nile during a series of 
years under the government of Amenemhat III and of his immediate 
successors. . . . They proved that the river, above four thou- 
sand years ago, rose more than twenty-four feet higher than now, 
and therel>y must have produced totally different conditions in the 
inundation and in the whole surface of the ground, both above and 
below this spot." — Lepsius 1 Letter* from Egypt, etc. Letter xxvi. 

"The highest rise of the Nile in each year at Semneh was regis- 
tered by a mark indicating the year of the king's reign, cut in the 
granite, either on one of the blocks forming the foundation of the 
fortress or on the cliff, and particularly on the east or right bank, as 
best adapted for the purpose. Of these markings eighteen still remain, 
thirteen of them having been made in the reign of Moeris (Amenem- 
hat III) and five in the time of his next two successsors. . . . We 
have here presented to us the remarkable facts that the highest of 
the records now legible, viz: that of the thirtieth year of the reign of 
Amenemhat, according to exact measurements which I made, is 8.17 
meters (twenty-six feet eight inches) higher than the highest level to 
which the Nile rises in years of the greatest floods; and, further, 
that the lowest mark, which is on the east bank, and indicated the 
fifteenth year of the same king, is still 4.14 meters (thirteen feet six 
and a half inches); and the single mark on the west bank, indicating 
the ninth year, is 2.77 meters (nine feet) above the highest level." — 
Lepsius' Letter to Professor Ehrenburg. See Appendix to the above. 


now had played the part of a vast reservoir, and dispersing 
the pent-up floods over the plains of Southern Egypt. 
It would, however, be a mistake to conclude that the Nile 
was by this catastrophe turned aside in order to be precip- 
itated in the direction of the cataract. One arm of the 
river must always have taken the present lower and deeper 
course; while the other must of necessity have run low — 
perhaps very nearly dry — as the inundation subsided every 

There remains no monumental record of this event; but 
the facts speak for themselves. The great channel is 
there. The old Nile mud is there — buried for the most 
part in sand, but still visible on many a rocky shelf and 
plateau between Assuan and Philae. There are even places 
where the surface of the mass is seen to be scooped out, as 
if by the sudden rush of the departing waters. Since that 
time, the tides of war and commerce have flowed in their 
place. Every conquering Thothmes and Pamcses bound 
for the land of Kush, led his armies that way. Sabacon, 
at the head of his Ethiopian hordes, took that short cut to 
the throne of all the Pharaohs. The French under 
Desaix, pursuing the Memlooks after the battle of the 
pyramids, swept down that pass to Philae. Meanwhile the 
whole trade of the Soudan, however interrupted at times 
by the ebb and flow of war, has also set that way. We 
never crossed those five miles of desert without encounter- 
ing a train or two of baggage-camels laden either with 
European goods for the far south, or with oriental treasures 
for the north. 

I shall not soon forget an Abyssinian caravan which we 
met one day just coming out from Mahatta. It consisted 
of seventy camels laden with elephant tusks. The tusks, 
which were about fourteen feet in length, were packed in 
half-dozens and sewed up in buffalo hides. Each camel 
was slung with two loads, one at either side of the hump. 
There must have been about eight hundred and forty tusks 
in all. Beside each shambling beast strode a bare-footed 
Nubian. Following these, on the back of a gigantic 
camel, came a hunting-leopard in a wooden cage and a 
wildcat in a basket. Last of all marched a coal-black 
Abyssinian nearly seven feet in height, magnificently 
shawled and turbaned, with a huge cimeter dangling by 
his side and in his belt a pair of enormous inlaid seven- 


teentli-century pistols, such as would have heconie the 
holsters of Prince Rupert. This elaborate warrior repre- 
sented the guard of the caravan. The hunting-leopard 
and the wildcat were for Prince Hassan, the third son of 
the viceroy. The ivory was for exportation. Anything 
more picturesque than this procession, with the dust driv- 
ing before it in clouds and the children following it out of 
the village, it would be difficult to conceive. One longed 
for Gerome to paint it on the spot. 

The rocks on either side of the ancient river-bed are 
profusely hieroglyphed. These inscriptions, together with 
others found in the adjacent quarries, range over a period 
of between three and four thousand years, beginning with 
the early reigns of the ancient empire and ending with 
the Ptolemies and Caesars. Some are mere autographs. 
Others run to a considerable length. Many are headed 
with figures of gods and worshipers. These, however, are 
for the most part mere graffiti, ill-drawn and carelessly 
sculptured. The records they illustrate are chiefly votive. 
The passer-by adores the gods of the cataract; implores 
their protection ; registers his name and states the object 
of his journey. The votaries are of various ranks, periods, 
and nationalities; but the formula in most instances is 
pretty much the same. Now it is a citizen of Thebes per- 
forming the pilgrimage to Phila? ; or a general at the head 
of his troops returning from a foray in Ethiopia ; or a 
tributary prince doing homage to Rameses the Great, and 
associating his suzerain with the divinities of the place. 
Occasionally we come upon a royal cartouche and a pomp- 
ous catalogue of titles, setting forth how the Pharaoh him- 
self, the Golden Hawk, the Son of Ra, the Mighty, the 
Invincible, the Godlike, passed that way. 

It is curious to see how royalty, so many thousand years 
ago, set the fashion in names, just as it does to this day. 
Nine-tenths of the ancient travelers who left their signa- 
tures upon these rocks were called Rameses or Thothmes or 
Usertasen. Others, still more ambitious, took the names 
of gods. Ampere, who hunted diligently for inscriptions 
both here and among the islands, found the autographs of 
no end of merely mortal Aniens and Hathors.* 

* For copies and translations of a large number of the graffiti of 
Assuan, see Lepsius' "Denkmaler;" also, for the most recent and 
the fullest collection of the rock-cut inscriptions of Assuan and its 


Our three days' detention in the cataract was followed 
by a fourth of glossy calm. There being no breath of air 
to fill our sails and no footing for the trackers, we could 
now get along only by dint of hard punting; so that it was 
past midday before the Philse lay moored at last in the 
shadow of the holy island to which she owed her name. 

neighborhood, including the hitherto uncopied inscriptions of the 
Saba Rigaleh Valley, of Elephantine, of the rocks above Silsileh, etc., 
etc., see Mr. W. M. Flinders Petrie's latest volume, entitled "A 
Season's Work in Egypt, 1877," published by Field & Tuer, 1888. 
[Note to second edition.] 




Having been for so many clays within easy reach of 
Philaj, it is not to be supposed that we were content till now 
with only an occasional glimpse of its towers in the dis- 
tance. On the contrary, we had found our way thither 
toward the close of almost every day's excursion. We had 
approached it by land from the desert; by water in the fe- 
lucca; from Mahatta by way of the path between the cliffs 
and the river. When I add that we moored here for a 
night and the best part of two days on our way up the 
river, and again for a week when we came down, it will be, 
seen that we had time to learn the lovely island by heart. 

The approach by water is quite the most beautiful. Seen 
from the level of a small boat, the island, with its palms, 
its colonnades, its pylons, seems to rise out of the river like 
a mirage. Piled rocks frame it in on either side, and pur- 
ple mountains close up the distance. As the boat glides 
nearer between glistening bowlders, those sculptured tow- 
ers rise higher and ever higher against the sky. They 
show no sign of ruin or of age. All looks solid, stately, 
perfect. One forgets for the moment that anything is 
changed. If a sound of antique chanting were to be borne 
along the quiet air — if a procession of white-robed priests 
bearing aloft the veiled ark of the god were to come 
sweeping round between the palms and the pylons — we 
should not think it strange. 

Most travelers land at the end nearest the cataract; so 
coming upon the principal temple from behind and seeing 
it in reverse order. We, however, bid our Arabs row 
round to the southern end, where was once a stately land- 
ing-place with steps down to the river. We skirt the steep 
banks and pass close under the beautiful little roofless tem- 
ple commonly known as Pharaoh's bed — that temple which 

PH1LM 189 

lias been so often painted, so often photographed, that 
every stone of it, and the platform on which it stands, and 
the tufted palms that cluster round about it, have been 
since childhood as familiar to our mind's eye as the sphinx 
or the pyramids. It is larger, but not one jot less beauti- 
ful than we had expected. And it is exactly like the pho- 
tographs. Still, one is conscious of perceiving a shade of 
difference too subtle for analysis; like the difference between 
a familiar face and the reflection of it in a looking-glass. 
Anyhow, one feels that the real Pharaoh's bed will hence- 
forth displace the photographs in that obscure mental 
pigeon-hole where till now one has been wont to store the 
well-known image; and that even the photographs have 
undergone some kind of change. 

And now the corner is rounded; and the river widens 
away southward between mountains and palm-groves; and 
the prow touches the debris of a ruined quay. The bank 
is steep here. We climb, and a wonderful scene opens 
before our eyes. We are standing at the lower end of a 
court-yard leading up to the propylons of the great temple. 
The court-yard is irregular in shape and inclosed on either 
side by covered colonnades. The colonnades are of un- 
equal lengths and set at different angles. One is simply a 
covered walk; the other opens upon a row of small cham- 
bers, like a monastic cloister opening upon a row of cells. 
The roofing-stones of these colonnades are in part dis- 
placed, while here and there a pillar or a capital is missing; 
but the twin towers of the propylon, standing out in sharp, 
unbroken lines against the sky and covered with colossal 
sculptures, are as perfect, or very nearly as perfect, as in 
the days of the Ptolemies who built them. 

The broad area between the colonnades is honeycombed 
with crude brick foundations — vestiges of a Coptic village 
of early Christian time. Among these we thread our way 
to the foot of the principal propylon, the entire width 
of which is one hundred and twenty feet. The towers 
measure sixty feet from base to parapet. These dimensions 
are insignificant for Egypt; yet the propylon, which would 
look small at Luxor or Karnak, does not look small at 
Philse. The key-note here is not magnitude, but beauty. 
The island is small — that is to say, it covers an area about 
equal to the summit of the Acropolis at Athens; and the 
scale of the buildiugs has been determined by the size of 


the island. As at Athens, the ground is occupied by one 
principal temple of moderate size and several subordinate 
chapels. Perfect grace, exquisite proportion, most varied 
and capricious grouping, here take the place of massive- 
ness; so lending to Egyptian forms an irregularity of 
treatment that is almost gothic and a lightness that is 
almost Greek. 

And now we catch glimpses of an inner court, of a 
second propylon, of a pillared portico beyond ; while, 
looking up to the colossal bas-reliefs above our heads, we 
see the usual mystic form of kings and deities, crowned, 
enthroned, worshiping and worshiped. These sculptures, 
which at first sight looked no less perfect than the towers, 
prove to be as laboriously mutilated as those of Denderah. 
The hawk-head of Horus and the cow-head of Ilathor have 
here and there escaped destruction; but the human-faced 
deities are literally "sans eyes, sans nose, sans ears, sans 

We enter the inner court — an irregular quadrangle 
inclosed on the east by an open colonnade, on the west by 
a chapel fronted with Hathor-headed columns, and on the 
north and south sides by the second and first propylons. 
In this quadrangle a cloisteral silence reigns. The blue sky 
burns above — the shadows sleep below — a tender twilight 
lies about our feet. Inside the chapel there sleeps per- 
petual gloom. It was built by Ptolemy Euergetes II, and 
is one of that order to which Champollion gave the name 
of Mammisi. It is a most curious place, dedicated to 
Ilathor and commemorative of the nurture of Horus. On 
the blackened walls within, dimly visible by the faint light 
which struggles through screen and doorway, we see Isis, 
the wife and sister of Osiris, giving birth to Horus. On 
the screen panels outside we trace the story of his infancy, 
education, and growth. As a babe at the breast, he is 
nursed in the lap of Ilathor, the divine foster-mother. As 
a young child, he stands at his mother's knee and listens 
to the playing of a female harpist (we saw a bare-footed 
boy the other day in Cairo thrumming upon a harp of just 
the same shape and with precisely as many strings); as a 
youth, he sows grain in honor of Isis and offers a jeweled 
collar to Ilathor. This Isis, with her long aquiline nose, 
thin lips, and haughty aspect, looks like one of the compli- 
mentary portraits so often introduced among the temple- 

PHILufl. 191 

sculptures of Egypt. It may represent one of the two 
Cleopatras wedded to Ptolemy Physcon. 

Two greyhounds with collars round their necks are 
sculptured on the outer wall of another small chapel 
adjoining. These also look like portraits. Perhaps they 
were the favorite dogs of some high priest of Philge. 

Close against the greyhounds and upon the same wall- 
space, is engraven that famous copy of the inscription of 
the Rosetta stone first observed here by Lepsius in a.d. 
1843. It neither stands so high nor looks so illegible as 
Ampere (with all the jealousy of a Champollionist and a 
Frenchman) is at such pains to make out. One would 
have said that it was in a state of more than ordinary good 

As a reproduction of the Rosetta decree, however, the 
Philre version is incomplete. The Eosetta text, after 
setting forth with official pomposity the victories and 
munificence of the king — Ptolemy V, the ever-living, the 
avenger of Egypt — concludes by ordaining that the record 
thereof shall be engraven in hieroglyphic, demotic, and 
Greek characters, and set up in all temples of the first, 
second, and third class throughout the empire. Broken 
and battered as it is, the precious black basalt* of the 

* Mariette, at the end of his " Apercu de l'histoire d'Egypte," 
give the following succint account of the Rosetta stone and the dis- 
covery of Champollion: 

" Decouverte, il y a 65 ans environ, par des soldats francais qui 
creusaient un retranchement pres d'une redoute situee a Rosette, la 
pierre qui porte ce nom a joue le plus grand role dans l'archeologie 
Egyptienne. Sur la face principale sont gravees trois inscriptions. 
Les deux premieres sont en langue Egyptienne et ecrites dans les 
deux ecritures qui avaient cours ii cette epoque. L'une est en 
ecriture hieroglyphique n'servee aux pretres: elle ne conipte plus que 
14 lignes tronquees par la brisure de la pierre. L 'autre est en une 
ecriture cursive appliquee principalement aux usges du peuple et 
comprise par lui: celle-ci off re 32 lignes de texte. Enfin, la troisieme 
inscription de la stele est en langue grecque et comprend 54 lignes. 
C'est dans cette derniere partie (pie reside l'interet du monument 
trouve a Rosette. II resulte, en effet, de l'interpretation du texte 
grec dela stele que ce texte n'est qu'une version de l'original transcrit 
plus t haut dans les deux ecritures Egyptiennes. La Pierre de Rosette 
nous donne done, dans une langue parfaitement conuue (le 
grec) la traduction d'un texte coneu dans une autre langue encore 
ignoree an moment ou la stele a ete decouverte. Qui ne voit l'utilite 
de cette mention? Remonter du connu a l'inconnu n'est pas une 
operation en dehors des inoyens d'une critique prudente, et deja Ton 


British Museum fulfills these conditions. The three 
writings are there. But at Philse, though the original 
hieroglyphic and demotic texts are reproduced almost 
verbatim, the priceless Greek transcript is wanting. It is 
provided for, as upon the Rosetta stone, in the preamble. 
Space has been left for it at the bottom of the tablet. We 
even fancied we could here and there distinguish traces of 
red ink where the lines should come. But not one word 
of it has ever been cut into the surface of the stone. 

Taken by itself, there is nothing strange in this omis- 
sion; but, taken in connection with a precisely similar 
omission in another inscription a few yards distant, it be- 
comes something more than a coincidence. 

devine que si la Pierre de Rosette a acquis dans la science la celebrite 
dont elle jouit aujourd'hui, c'est qu'elle a fourni la vraie clef de 
cette rnysterieuse ecriture dont l'Egypte a si longtemps garde le 
secret. II ne faudrait pas croire cependant que le dechiffrement des 
hieroglyphesau moyen de la Pierre de Rosette ait ete obtenu du premier 
coup et sans tatonnements. Bien an contraire, les savants s'y essa- 
yerent sans succes pendant 20 ans. Entin, Okampollion parut. 
Jusqu'a lui, on avait cru que chacune des lettres qui coinposent 
l'ecriture hieroglyphique etait un symbolej c'est a dire, que dans une 
seule de ces lettres etait exprimee une idee complete. Le ; inerite de 
Champollion ete de prouver qu'au contraire l'ecriture Egyptienne 
contient des signes qui expriment veritablement des sons. En 
d'autres termes qu'elle est Alphabetique. U remarqua, par exemple, 
que partout ou dans le texte grec de Rosette se trouve le nom propre 
Ptolemee, on recontre a l'eudroit correspondant du texte Egyptien un 
certain nombre de signes enfermes dans un encadrement elliptique. 
II en conclut: 1°, que les noms des rois etaient dans le systeme hiero 
glyphique signales a l'attention par une sorte d'ecusson qu'il appela 
cartouche: 2 , que les signes contenus dans cet ecusson devaient etre 
lettre pour lettre le nom de Ptolemee. Deja done en supposant les 
voyelles omises, Champollion etait en possession de cinq lettres — P, 
T, L, M, S. D'un autre cote, Champollion savait, d'apres une 
seconde inscription grecque gravee sur une obelisque de Philse, que 
sur cet obelisque un cartouche hieroglyphique qu'on y voit devait 
etre celui de Cleopatre. Si sa premiere lecture etait juste, le P, leL, 
et le T, de Ptolemee devaient seretrouver dans le second nom propre; 
mais en meme temps ce second nom propre fournissait un K et un R 
nouveaux. Eufin, applique a d'autres cartouches, l'alphabet encore 
tres imparfait revele a Champollion par les noms de Cleopatre et de 
Ptolemee le mit en possession d'a peu pres toutes les autres con- 
sonnes. Comme pronunciation des signes, Champollion n'avait done 
pas a hesiter, et des le jour ou cette constatatmn eut lieu, il put cer- 
tifier qu'il etait en possession de l'alphabet Egyptien. Mais restait 
la langue; car prononcer des mots n'est rien si Ton ne sait pas ce que 
ces mots veuleut dire. Ici le genie de Champollion se donna libre 

PIIIL^J. 193 

This second inscription is cut upon the face of a block 
of living rock which forms part of the foundation of the 
easternmost tower of the second propylon. Having enumer- 
ated certain grants of land made to the temple by 
Ptolemies VI and VIE, it concludes, like the first, by de- 
creeing that this record of the royal bounty shall be en- 
graven in the hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek; that is to 
say: in the ancient sacred writing of the priests, the ordi- 
nary script of the people, and the language of the court. 
But here again the sculptor has left his work unfinished. 
Here again the inscription breaks off at the end of the de- 
motic, leaving a blank space for the third transcript. This 
second omission suggests intentional neglect; and the mo- 
tive for such neglect would not be far to seek. The tongue 
of the dominant race is likely enough to have been unpop- 

cours. II s'apercut en effet que son alphabet tire des noms propres 
et applique aux mots de la langue donnait tout simplement du Copte. 
Or, le Copte a son tour est une langue qui, sans etre aussi exploree 
que le grec, n'en etait pas moins depuis longteinps accessible. Cette 
t'ois le voileetait done completement leve. La langue Egyptienne 
n'est que du Copte ecrit en; ou, pour parler plusexacte- 
ment, le Copte n'est que la langue des anciens Pharaons, ecrite, 
comme nous l'avons dit plus haut, en lettres grecques. Le reste se 
devine. D'indices en indices, Champollion proceda veritablement du 
connu a l'inconnu, et bientot l'illustre fondateur de l'Egyptologie put 
poser les fondements de cette belle science qui a pour objet ['inter- 
pretation des Tel est la Pierre de Rosette." — " Apercu 
de l'Histoire d'Egypte:" Mariette Bey, p. 189 et seq.: 1872. 

In order to have done witb tbis subject, it may be as well to men- 
tion that anotber trilingual tablet was found by Mariette while con- 
ducting his excavations at San (Tanis) in 1865. It dates from the 
ninth year of Ptolemy Euergetes, and the text ordains the deifica- 
tion of Berenice, a daughter of the king, then just dead (b. c. 254). 
This stone, preserved in the museum at Boulak, is known as the 
stone of San, or the decree of Canopus. Had the Kosetta stone 
never been discovered, we may fairly conclude that the Canopic 
degree would have furnished some later Champollion with the nec- 
essary key to hieroglyphic literature, and that the great discovery 
would only have been deferred till the present time. 

Note to Second Edition. — A third copy of the decree of Canopus, 
the text engraved in hieroglyphs only, was found at Tell Nebireh in 
1885, and conveyed to the Boulak Museum. The discoverer of this 
tablet, however, missed a much greater discovery, reserved, as it 
happened, for Mr. W. M. F. Petrie, who came to the spot a month 
or two later, and found that the mounds of Tell Nebireh entombed 
the remains of the famous and long-lost Greek city of Naukratis. 
See "Naukratis," Part I. by W.M. F. Petrie, published by the Egypt 
Exploration Fund, 1880. 


U'lar among the old noble and sacerdotal families; and it 
may well be that the priesthood of Phila?, secure in their 
distant solitary isle, could with impunity evade a clause 
which their brethren of the Delta were obliged to obey. 

It does not follow that the Greek rule was equally un- 
popular. We have reason to believe quite otherwise. The 
conqueror of the Persian invader was in truth the deliverer 
of Egypt. Alexander restored peace to the country and 
the Ptolemies identified themselves with the interests of 
the people. A dynasty which not only lightened the bur- 
dens of the poor, but respected the privileges of the rich; 
which honored the priesthood, endowed the temples, and 
compelled the Tigris to restore the spoils of the Nile, 
could scarcely fail to win the suffrages of all classes. The 
priests of Phila? might despise the language of Homer 
while honoring the descendants of Philip of Macedon. 
They could naturalize the king. They could disguise his 
name in hieroglyphic spelling. They could depict him in 
the traditional dress of the Pharaohs. They could crown him 
with the double crown, and represent him in the act of 
worshiping the gods of his adopted country. But they 
could neither naturalize nor disguise his language. Spoken 
or written, it was an alien thing. Oarven in high places, it 
stood for a badge of servitude. What could a conservative 
hierarchy do but abhor, and, when possible, ignore it? 

There are other sculptures in this quadrangle which one 
would like to linger over; as, for instance, the capitals of 
the eastern colonnade, no two of which are alike, and the 
grotesque bas-reliefs of the frieze of the Mammisi. Of 
these, a quasi-heraldic group, representing the sacred hawk 
sitting in the center of a fan-shaped persea tree between 
two supporters, is one of the most curious; the supporters 
being on the one side a maniacal lion, and on the other a 
Typhonian hippopotamus, each grasping a pair of shears. 

Passing now through the doorway of the second propylon, 
we find ourselves facing the portico — the famous painted 
portico of which we had seen so many sketches that we 
fancied we knew it already. That second-hand knowledge 
goes for nothing, however, in presence of the reality ; and 
we are as much taken by surprise as if we were the first 
travelers to set foot within these enchanted precincts. 

For here is a place in which time seems to have stood as 
still as in that immortal palace where everything went to 

PfflLyE. 195 

sleep for a hundred years. The bas-reliefs on the walls, 
the intricate paintings on the ceilings, the colors upon the 
capitals, are incredibly fresh and perfect. These exquisite 
capitals have long been the wonder and delight of travelers 
in Egypt. They are all studied from natural forms — 
from the lotus in bud and blossom, the papyrus, and the 
palm. Conventionalized with consummate skill, they are 
at the same time so justly proportioned to the height and 
girth of the columns as to give an air of wonderful light- 
ness to the whole structure. But above all, it is with the 
color — color conceived in the tender and pathetic minor of 
Watteau and Laucret and G-reuze — that one is most fasci- 
nated. Of those delicate half-tones, the fac-simile in the 
*' Grammar of Ornament " conveys not the remotest idea. 
Every tint is softened, intermixed, degraded. The pinks 
are coralline; the greens are tempered with verditer ; the 
blues are of a greenish turquoise, like the western half of 
an autumnal evening sky. 

Later on, when we returned to Phila? from the second 
cataract, the writer devoted the best part of three days to 
making a careful study of a corner of this portico; patiently 
matching those subtle variations of tint and endeavoring 
to master the secret of their combination.* 

Architecturally, this court is unlike any we have yet 
seen, being quite small, and open to the sky in the center, 
like the atrium of a Roman house. The light thus 
admitted glows overhead, lies in a square patch on the 
ground below, and is reflected upon the pictured recesses 

* The famous capitals are not the only specimens of admirable 
coloring in Phila?. Among the battered bas-reliefs of the great col- 
onnade at the south end of the island there yet remain some 
isolated patches of uninjured and very lovely ornament. See, more 
particularly, the mosaic pattern upon the throne of a divinity just 
over the second doorway in the western wall; and the designs upon 
a series of other thrones a little farther along toward the north, 
all most delicately drawn in uniform compartments, picked out in 
the three primary colors, and laid on in flat tints of wonderful 
purity and delicacy. Among these a lotus between two buds, an 
exquisite little sphinx on a pale-red ground, and a series of sacred 
hawks, white upon red, alternating with white upon blue, all 
most exquisitely conventionalized, may be cited as examples of 
absolutely perfect treatment and design in polychrome decoration. 
A more instructive and delightful task than the copying of these 
precious fragments can hardly be commended to students and 
sketchers on the Nile. 


of the ceiling. At the upper end, where the pillars stand 
two deep, there was originally an intercolnmnar screen. 
The rough sides of the columns show where the connecting 
blocks have been torn away. The pavement, too, has been 
pulled up by treasure-seekers, and the ground is strewn 
with broken slabs and fragments of shattered cornice. 

These are the only signs of ruin — signs traced not by the 
finger of time, but by the hand of the spoiler. So fresh, 
so fair is all the rest, that we are fain to cheat ourselves 
for a moment into the belief that what we see is work not 
marred, but arrested. Those columns, depend on it, are 
yet unfinished. That pavement is about to be relaid. It 
would not surprise us to find the masons here to-morrow 
morning, or the sculptor, with mallet and chisel, carrying 
on that band of lotus buds and bees. Far more difficult 
is it to believe that they all struck work forever some 
two-and-twenty centuries ago. 

Here and there, where the foundations have been dis- 
turbed, one sees that the columns are constructed of 
sculptured blocks, the fragments of some earlier temple; 
while, at a height of about six feet from the ground, a 
Greek cross cut deep into the side of the shaft stamps 
upon each pillar the seal of Christian worship. 

For the Copts who choked the colonnades and court-yards 
with their hovels seized also on the temples. Some they 
pulled down for building material; others they appro- 
priated. We can never know how much they destroyed; 
but two large convents on the eastern bank a little higher 
up the river, and a small basilica at the north end of the 
island, would seem to have been built with the magnificent 
masonry of the southern quay, as well as with blocks 
taken from a structure which once occupied the south- 
eastern corner of the great colonnade. As for this 
beautiful painted portico, they turned it into a chapel. A 
little rough-hewn niche in the east wall, and an overturned 
credence-table fashioned from a single block of limestone, 
mark the site of the chancel. The Arabs, taking this last 
for a gravestone, have pulled it up, according to their 
usual practice, in search of treasure buried with the dead. 
On the front of the credence-table,* and over the niche 

* It has since been pointed out by a writer in The Saturday 
Review tbat this credence-table was fashioned with part of a shrine 
destined for one of the captive hawks sacred to Horus. [Note to 
second edition.] 

PHIL^J. 197 

which some unskilled but pious hand has decorated with 
rude Byzantine carvings, the Greek cross is again con- 

The religious history of Philae is so curious that it is a 
pity it should not find an historian. It shared with 
Abydos and some other places the reputation of being the 
burial-place of Osiris. It was called the " Holy Island." 
Its very soil was sacred. None might land upon its shores, 
or even approach them too nearly, without permission. 
To obtain that permission and perform the pilgrimage to 
the tomb of the god, was to the pious Egyptian what the 
Mecca pilgrimage is to the pious Mussulman of to-day. 
The most solemn oath to which he could give utterance 
was " By him who sleeps in Philas." 

When and how the island first came to be regarded as 
the resting-place of the most beloved of the gods does not 
appear; but its reputation for sanctity seems to have been 
of comparatively modern date. It probably rose into im- 
portance as Abydos declined. Herodotus, who is supposed 
to have gone as far as Elephantine, made minute inquiry 
concerning the river above that point; and he relates that 
the cataract was in the occupation of " Ethiopian nomads." 
He, however, makes no mention of Philae or its temples. 
This omission on the part of one who, wherever he went, 
sought the society of the priests and paid particular atten- 
tion to the religions observances of the country, shows that 
either Herodotus never got so far, or that the island had 
not yet become the home of the Osirian mysteries. Four 
hundred years later, Diodorus Siculus describes it as the 
holiest of holy places; while Strabo, writing about the 
same time, relates that Abydos had then dwindled to a 
mere village. It seems, possible, therefore, that at some 
period subsequent to the time of Herodotus and prior to 
that of Diodorus or Strabo, the priests of Isis may have 
migrated from Abydos to Philse; in which case there would 
have been a formal transfer not only of the relics of Osiris, 
but of the sanctity which had attached for ages to their 
original resting-place. Nor is the motive for such an 
exodus wanting. The ashes of the god were no longer 
safe at Abydos. Situated in the midst of a rich corn coun- 
try on the righ road to Thebes, no city south of Memphis 
lay more exposed to the hazards of war. Cambyses had 
already passed that way. Other invaders might follow. 


To seek beyond the frontier that security which might no 
longer be found in Egypt, would seem therefore to be the 
obvious course of a priestly guild devoted to its trust. 
This, of course, is mere conjecture, to be taken for what it 
may be worth. The decadence of Abydos coincides, at all 
events, with the growth of Phila?: and it is only by help of 
some such assumption that one can understand how a new 
site should have suddenly arisen to such a height of 

The earliest temple here, of which only a small propylon 
remains, would seem to have been built by the last of the 
native Pharaohs (Nectanebo II, B.C. 361) ; but the high 
and palmy days of Philae belong to the period of Greek 
and Roman rule. It was in the time of the Ptolemies that 
the holy island became the seat of the sacred college and 
the stronghold of a powerful hierarchy. Visitors from 
all parts of Egypt, travelers from distant lands, court func- 
tionaries from Alexandria charged with royal gifts, came 
annually in crowds to offer their vows at the tomb of the 
god. They have cut their names by hundreds all over the 
principal temple, just like tourists of to-day. Some of 
these antique autographs are written upon and across 
those of preceding visitors; while others — palimpsests upon 
stone, so to say — having been scratched on the yet un- 
sculptured surface of doorway and pylon, are seen to be 
older than the hieroglyphic texts which were afterward 
carved over them. These inscriptions cover a period of 
several centuries, during which time successive Ptolemies 
and Caesars continued to endow the island. Rich in lands, 
in temples, in the localization of a great national myth, the 
sacred college was yet strong enough in a.d. 379 to oppose 
a practical insistence to the edict of Theodosius. At a 
word from Constantinople the whole land of Egypt was for- 
cibly Christianized. Priests were forbidden under pain of 
death to perform the sacred rites. Hundreds of temples were 
plundered. Forty thousand statues of divinities were de- 
stroyed at one fell swoop. Meanwhile, the brotherhood of 
Philae, intrenched behind the cataract and the desert, sur- 
vived the degradation of their order and the ruin of their 
immemorial faith. It is not known with certainty for 
how long they continued to transmit their hereditary 
privileges; but two of the above-mentioned votive inscrip- 
tions show that so late as a.d. 453 the priestly families 

PHIL^J. 100 

were still in occupation of the island and still celebrating 
the mysteries of Osiris and Isis. There even seems reason 
for believing that the ancient worship continued to hold 
its own till the end of the sixth century, at which time, 
according to an inscription at Kalabsheh, of which I shall 
have more to say hereafter, Silco, -'King of all the 
Ethiopians," himself apparently a Christian, twice invaded 
Lower Nubia, where God, he says, gave him the victory, 
and the vanquished swore to him " by their idols" to 
observe the terms of peace.* 

There is nothing in this record to show that the invaders 
went beyond Tafa, the ancient Taphis, which is twenty- 
seven miles above Phila? ; but it seems reasonable to con- 
clude that so long as the old gods yet reigned in any part 
of Nubia, the island sacred to Osiris would maintain its 
traditional sanctity. 

At length, however, there must have come a day when 
for the last time the tomb of the god was crowned with 
flowers and the " Lamentations of Isis "were recited on 
the threshold of the sanctuary. And there must have 
come another day when the cross was carried in triumph 
up those painted colonnades and the first Christian mass 
was chanted in the precints of the heathen. One would 
like to know how these changes were brought about ; 
whether the old faith died out for want of worshipers, or 
was expelled with clamor and violence. But upon this 

* In the time of Strabo, the Island of Philae, as has been recently 
shown by Professor Revillout in his " Seconde Memoire snr les 
Blemmys," was the common property of the Egyptians and Nubians, 
or rather of that obscure nation called the Blemmys, who, with the 
Nobades and Megabares, were collectively classed at that time as 
" Ethiopians." The Blemmys (ancestors of the present Barabras) 
were a stalwart and valiant race, powerful enough to treat on equal 
terms with the Roman rulers of Egypt. They were devout adorers 
of Isis, and it is interesting to learn that in the treaty of Maximin with 
this nation, it is expressly provided that, " according to the old law," 
the Blemmys were entitled to take the statue of Isis every year from 
the sanctuary of Philae to their own country for a visit of a stated 
period. A graffito at Philae, published by Letronne, states that the 
writer was at Philae when the image of the goddess was brought 
back from one of these periodical excursions, and that he beheld 
the arrival of the sacred boats "containing the shrines of the divine 
statues." From this it would appear that other images than that of 
Isis had been taken to Ethiopia; probably those of Osiris and Horus, 
and possibly also that of Hathor, the divine nurse. [Note to second 
edition." 1 


point history is vague * and the graffiti of the time are 
silent. We only know for certain that the old went out 
and the new came in ; and that where the resurrected 
Osiris was wont to be worshiped according to the most 
sacred mysteries of the Egyptian ritual, the resurrected 
Christ was now adored after the simple fashion of the 
primitive Coptic church. 

And now the holy island, near which it was believed no 
fish had power to swim or bird to fly and upon whose soil 
no pilgrim might set foot without permission, became all 
at once the common property of a populous community. 
Courts, colonnades, even terraced roofs, were overrun with 
little crude brick dwellings. A small basilica was built at 
the lower end of the island. The portico of the great 
temple was converted into a chapel and dedicated to 
St. Stephen. " This good work," says a Greek inscription 
traced there by some monkish hand of the period, "was 
done by the well-beloved of God, the Abbot-Bishop Theo- 
dore." Of this same Theodore, whom another inscription 
styles " the very holy father," we know nothing but his 

The walls hereabout are full of these fugitive records. 
" The cross has conquered and will ever conquer," writes 
one anonymous scribe. Others have left simple signatures; 
as, for instance: " I, Joseph," in one place and " I, Theo- 
dosius of Nubia," in another. Here and there an added 
word or two give a more human interest to the autograph. 
So, in the pathetic scrawl of one who writes himself 
"Johannes, a slave," we seem to read the story of a life 
in a single line. These Coptic signatures are all followed 
by the sign of the cross. 

The foundation of the little basilica, with its apse toward 
the east and its two doorways to the west, are still trace- 
able. We set a couple of our sailors one day to clear away the 
rubbish at the lower end of the nave, and found the font — 
a rough-stone basin at the foot of a broken column. 

It is not difficult to guess what Phihe must have been like 
in the days of Abbot Theodore and his flock. The little ba- 
silica, we may be sure, had a cluster of mud domes upon 
the roof; and I fancy, somehow, that the abbot and his 

* The Emperor Justinian is credited with the mutilation of the 
sculptures of the large temple; but the ancient worship was probably 
only temporarily supended in his time. 

PHILM 201 

monks installed themselves in that row of cells on the east 
side ot the great colonnade, where the priests of Tsis dwelled 
before them. As for the village, it must have been just like 
Luxor-swarm, ng with dusky life; noisy with the babble 
ot children, the cackling of poultry and the barking of 
(logs; sending up thin pillars of blue smoke at noon; echo- 
ing to the measured chimes of the prayer-bell at morn and 
even; and sleeping at night as soundly as if no ghostlike, 
mutilated gods were looking on mournfully in the rnoon- 

The gods are avenged now. The creed which dethroned 
them is dethroned. Abbot Theodore and his successors, 
and the religion they taught, and the simple folk that lis- 
tened to their teaching, are gone and forgotten. For the 
Church of Christ, which still languishes in Egypt, is ex- 
tinct m Nubia. It lingered long; though doubtless in 
some such degraded and barbaric form as it wears in Abys- 
sinia to this day But it was absorbed by Islamism at last: 
and only a ruined convent perched here and there upon 
some solitary height, or a few crosses rudely carved on the 
walls of a Ptolemaic temple, remain to show that Christian- 
ity once passed that way. 

The mediaeval history of Philas is almost a blank The 
Arabs having invaded Egypt toward the middle of the 
seventh century, were long in the land before they began 
to cultivate literature; and for more than three hundred 
years history is silent. It is not till the tenth century that we 
once again catch a fleeting glimpse of Philse. The frontier 
is now removed to the head of the cataract. The Holv 
Island has ceased to be Christian; ceased to be Nubian- 
contains a mosque and garrison, and is the hist fortified 
outpost of the Moslems It still retains, and apparently 
tv ill continue to retain for some centuries longer, its ancient 
Egyptian name. That is to say (P being Is usual con 
verted into B) the Pilak of the" lLoglyphic i " "ript s~ 
becomes m Arabic Belak;* which is much more like the 
original than the Phihe of the Creeks. 

* These and the following: particulars about the Christians of 
Nubia are found in the famous work of Makrizi, an Arab Sstoria? 

1 Si n. nt -r entU , ry : w £? qUOtes kl - el >' from Earlier writers See 
Burckhardts "Travels in Nubia," 4to, L819, Appendix iii. Although 
Belak is distinctly described as an island in the neighborhood of the 
cataract, distant four miles from Assuan, Burckhard pe sted a 


The native Christians, meanwhile, would seem to have 
relapsed into a state of semi-barbarism. They make per- 
petual inroads upon the Arab frontier and suffer perpetual 
defeat. Battles are fought; tribute is exacted; treaties are 
made and broken. Toward the close of the thirteenth century , 
their king being slain and their churches plundered, they 
lose one-fourth of their territory, including all that part 
which borders upon Assuan. Those who remain Christians 
are also condemned to pay an annual capitation tax, in ad- 
dition to the usual tribute of dates, cotton, slaves and 
camels. After this we may conclude that they accepted 
Islamisin from the Arabs, as they had accepted Osiris from 
the Egyptians and Christ from the Komans. As Christians,' 
at all events, we hear of them no more; for Christianity in 
Nubia perished root and branch, and not a Copt, it is said, 
may now be found above the frontier. 

Philae was still inhabited in a. d. 1799, when a detach- 
ment of Desaix's army under General Beliard took posses- 
sion of the island and left an inscription* on the soffit of the 
doorway of the great pylon to commemorate the passage of 
the cataract. Denon, describing the scene with his usual 
vivacity, relates how the natives first defied and then fled 
from the French; flinging themselves into the river, 
drowning such of their children as were too young to swim 
and escaping into the desert. They appear at this time to 
have been mere savages — the women ugly and sullen, the men 
naked, agile and quarrelsome, and armed not only with 
swords and spears, but with matchlock guns, with which 
they used to keep up "a brisk and well-directed fire." 

Their abandonment of the island probably dates from 
this time; for when Burkhardt went up in A. D. 1813, he 
found it, as we found it to this day, deserted and solitary. 

looking for it among the islets below Mahatta, and believd Phil* to 
be the first Nubian town beyond the frontier. The hieroglyphic 
alphabet, however, had not then been deciphered. Burckhardt died 
at Cairo in 1817, and Champoll ion's discovery was not given to the 
world till 1822. 

* This inscription, which M. About considers the most interesting 
thing in Philae, runs as follows: " A' An VI de la Republique, le 15 
Messidor, une Armee Francaise commandee par Bonaparte est de- 
scendue a Alexandrie. L'Armee ayant mis, vingt jours apres, les 
Mamelouks en f uite aux Pyramides, Desaix, commandant la premiere 
division, les a poursuivis au dela des Cataractes, ou il est arrive le 18 
Ventose de l'an VII." 

PHILJE. 203 

One poor old man — if indeed he still lives — is now the one 
inhabitant of Philse; and I suspect he only crosses over 
from Biggeh in the tourist-season. He calls himself, with 
or without authority, the guardian of the island; sleeps in 
a nest of rags and straw in a sheltered corner behind the 
great temple; and is so wonderfully wizened and bent and 
knotted up that nothing of him seems quite alive except 
his eyes. We gave him fifty copper paras* for a parting 
present when on our way back to Egypt; and he was so 
oppressed by the consciousness of wealth that he immedi- 
ately buried his treasure and implored us to tell no one 
what we had given him. 

With the French siege and the flight of the native popu- 
lation closes the last chapter of the local history of Philse. 
The holy island has done henceforth with wars of creeds 
or kings. It disappears from the domain of history and 
enters the domain of science. To have contributed to the 
discovery of the hieroglyphic alphabet is a high distinction; 
and in no sketch of Philas, however slight, should the 
obeliskf that furnished Champollion with the name of 
Cleopatra be allowed to pass unnoticed. This monument, 
second only to the Rosetta stone in point of philological in- 
terest, was carried off by Mr. W. Bankes, the discoverer of 
the first tablet of Abvdos, and is now in Dorsetshire. Its 
empty socket and its fellow obelisk, mutilated and solitary, 
remain in situ at the southern extremity of the island. 

And now — for we have lingered over long in the portico 
— it is time we glanced at the interior of the temple. So 
we go in at the central door, beyond which opens some 
nine or ten halls and side-chambers leading, as usual, to 
the sanctuary. Here all is dark, earthly, oppressive. In 
rooms unlighted by the faintest gleam from without, we 
find smoke-blackened walls covered with elaborate bas- 
reliefs. Mysterious passages, pitch-dark, thread the thick- 
ness of the walls and communicate by means of trap-like 
openings with vaults below. In the sanctuary lies an over- 
thrown altar; while in the corner behind it stands the very 
niche in which Strabo must have seen that poor, sacred 
hawk of Ethiopia which he describes as " sick and nearly 

* About two-and- sixpence English. 
\ See previous note, p. 181. 


But in this temple dedicated not only to Isis, but to the 
memory of Osiris and the worship of Horus their son, 
there is one chamber which we may be quite sure was 
shown neither to Strabo nor Diodorus, nor to any stranger 
of alien faith, be his repute or station what it might; a 
chamber holy above all others; holier even than the sanc- 
tuary — the chamber sacred to Osiris. "We, however, un- 
restricted, unforbidden, are free to go where we list; and 
our books tell us that this mysterious chamber is some- 
where overhead. So, emerging once again into the day- 
light, we go up a well-worn staircase leading out upon the 

This roof is an intricate, up-and-down place, and the 
room is not easy to find. It lies at the bottom of a little 
flight of steps — a small stone cell some twelve feet square, 
lighted only from the doorway. The walls are covered 
with sculptures representing the shrines,the mummification 
and the resurrection of Osiris.* These shrines, containing 

* The story of Osiris — the beneficent god, the friend of man, slain 
and dismembered by Typhon* buried in a score of graves: sought 
by Isis; recovered limb by limb; resuscitated in the flesh; tians- 
ferred from earth to reign over the dead in the world of shades — is 
one of the most complex of Egyptian legends. Osiris under some 
aspects is the Nile. He personifies abstract good, and is entitled 
Unnefer, or " The Good Being." He appears as a myth of the solar 
year. lie bears a notable likeness to Prometheus and to the Indian 

"Osiris, dit-on, etait autrefois descendu sur la terre. Etre bon 
par excellence, il avait adouci les inceurs des hommes par la per- 
suasion et la bienfaisance. Mais il avait succombe sous les embuches 
de Typhon, son frere, le genie du mal, et pendant que ses deux 
soeurs, Isis et Nephthys, recueillaient son corps qui avait ete jete 
dans le fleuve, le dieu ressuscitait d'entre les morts et apparaissait a 
son fils Horus, qu'il instituait son vengeur. C'est ce sacrifice 
qu'il avait autrefois accompli en faveur des hommes qu' Osiris 
renouvelle ici eu faveur de Fame degagee de ses liens ter- 
restres. Non seulement il devient son guide, mais il s'identifie a 
elle; il l'absorbe en son propre sein. C'est lui alors qui, devenu le 
defunt lui meme, se soumet a toutes les epreuves que celui-ci doit 
subir avant d'etre proclaim' juste; c'est lui qui, a chaque ame qu'il 
doit sauver, flechit les gardiens des demeures infernales et combat 
les monstres compagnons de la nuit et de la mort; c'est lui enfin qui, 
vainqueur des tenebres, avec l'assistance d'Horus, s'assied au tribunal 
de la supreme justice et ouvre a l'ame declaree pure les portes 
du sejour eternel. L'image de la mort aura ete empruntee au soleil 
qui disparait a l'horizon du soir: le soleil resplendissant du matin 

P1IILM. 205 

some part of bis body, are variously fasbioned. His bead, 

for instance, rests on anilometer; bis arm, surmounted by 

sera la symbole de cette seconde naissance a une vie qui, cette fois, 
ne connaitra pas la mort. 

" Osiris est done le principe du bien. . . . Charge de sauver 
les nines de la mort definitive, il est l'intermediaire entre l'liomme 
et Dieu; il est le type et le sauveur de l'lioinme." — -"Notice des 
Monuments a Boulaq" — Aug. Mariette Bey, 1872, pp. 105 et seq. 

[It has always been taken for granted by Egyptologists that Osiris 
was originally a local god of Abydos, and that Abydos was the cradle 
of the Osirian myth. Professor Maspero, however, in some of his 
recent lectures at the College de France, has shown that the Osirian 
cult took its rise in the Delta; and, in point of fact, Osiris, in cer- 
tain ancient inscriptions, is styled the King Osiris, " Lord of 
Tattu " (Busiris), and has his name inclosed in a royal oval. Up 
to the time of the Graeco-Roman rule the only two cities of 
Egypt in which Osiris reigned as the principal god were Busiris and 

" Le centre terrestre du culte d'Osiris, etait clans les cantons nord- 
est du Delta, situes entre la branche Sebennytique et la branche 
Pelusiaque, conime le centre terrestre du culte de Sit, le frere et le 
meurtrier d' Osiris: les deux dieux etaient limitrophes l'un de l'autre, 
et des rivalites de voisinage expliquent peut-etre en partie leurs 


a head, is sculptured on a stela, in shape resembling a 

high-shouldered bottle, surmounted by one of the head- 

querelles. . . . Tous les traits de la tradition Osirienne ne sont 
pas egalement anciens: le fond me parait etre d'une antiquity incon- 
testable. Osiris y reunit les caracteres des deux divinites qui se 
partageaient chaque nome: il est le dieu des vivants et le dieu des 
morts en meme temps; le dieu qui nourrit et le dieu qui detruit. 
Probablement, les temps oil, saisi de pitie pour les mortels, il leur 
ouvrit Faeces de son royaume, avaient ete precedes d'autres temps ou 
il etait impitoyable et ne songeait qu'a les aneantir. Je crois trouver 
un souvenir de ce role destructeur d'Osiris dans plusieurs passages 
des textes des Pyramides, ou Ton promet au mort que Harkhouti 
viendra vers lui, 'deliantses liens, brisant ses cliainespourle delivrer 
de la ruine; il ne le Ivorera pas d Osiris, si Men qu'il ne mov/rra pan, 
mais il sera glorieux dans l'horizon, solide comme le Did dans la 
ville de Didou.' L'Osiris farouche et cruel fut absorbe prompte- 
ment par l'Osiris doux et bienveillant. L'Osiris qui domine toute la 
religion ttgyptienne desle debut, e'est l'Osiris Onnofris, l'Osiris Entre 
bon, que les Grecsont connu. Commes ses parents, Sibou et Nouit, 
Osiris Onnofris appartient a, la classe des dieux generaux qui ne sont 
pas confines en un seul canton, mais qui sont adores par un pays 
entier. " See/' Les Hypogees Royaux de Thebes" (Bulletin critiquede 
la religion Egyptienne) par Professeur G. Maspero, "Revue de 
l'Histoire des Religions," 1888. [Note to second edition.] 

" The astronomical and physical elements are too obvious to be 
mistaken. Osiris and Isis are the Nile and Egypt. The myth of 
Osiris typifies the solar year — the power of Osiris is the sun in the 
lower hemisphere, the winter solstice. The birth of Horus typifies 
the vernal equinox — the victory of Horus, the summer solstice — the 
inundation of the Nile. Typhon is the autumnal equinox." 
— ' ' Egypt's Place in Universal History," Bunsen, 1st ed., vol. i, p. 437. 

"The Egyptians do not all worship the same gods, excepting Isis 
and Osiris." — Herodotus, book ii. 



dresses peculiar to the god; his legs and feet lie in a pylon- 
shaped mausoleum. Upon another shrine stands the miter- 
shaped crown which he wears as judge of the lower world. 
Isis and Nephthys keep guard over each shrine. In a 
lower frieze we see the mummy of the god laid upon a 
bier, with the four so-called canopic jars* ranged under- 
neath. A little farther on he lies in state, surrounded by 


lotus buds on tall stems, figuratively of growth, or return- 
ing life. f Finally, he is depicted lying on a couch; his 
limbs reunited; his head, left hand, and left foot upraised, 
as in the act of returning to consciousness. Nephthys, in 
the guise of a winged genius, fans him with the breath of 
life. Isis, with outstretched arms, stands at his feet and 
seems to be calling him back to her embraces. The scene 
represents, in fact, that supreme moment when Isis pours 

*" These vases, made of alabaster, calcarecms stone, porcelain, 
terra-cotta, and even wood, were destined to hold the soft part or 
viscera of the body, embalmed separately and deposited in them. 
They were four in number, and were made in the shape of the four 
genii of the Karneter, or Hades, to whom were assigned the four 
cardinal points of the compass." Birch's "Guide to the First and 
Second Egyptian Rooms," 1874, p. 89. See also Birch's " History of 
Ancient Pottery," 1873, p. 23 et seq. 

f Thus depicted, he is called "the germinating Osiris." [Xote to 
second edition.] 


forth her passionate invocations, and Osiris is resuscitated 
by virtue of the songs of the divine sisters.* 

Ill-modeled and ill-cut as they are, there is a clownish 
naturalness about these little sculptures which lifts them 
above the conventional dead level of ordinary Ptolemaic 
work. The figures tell their tale intelligbly. Osiris seems 
really struggling to rise, and the action of Isis expresses 
clearly enough the intention of the artist. Although a 
few heads have been mutilated and the surface of the stone 
is somewhat degraded, the subjects are by no means in a 
bad state of preservation. In the accompanying sketches, 
nothing has been done to improve the defective drawing or 
repair the broken outlines of the originals. Osiris in one 
has lost his foot and in another his face; the hands of Isis 
are as shapeless as those of a bran doll; and the naivete of 
the treatment verges throughout upon caricature. But 
the interest attaching to them is altogether apart from the 
way in which they are executed. And now, returning to 
the roof, it is pleasant to breathe the fresher air that comes 
with sunset — to see the island, in shape like an ancient 
Egyptian shield, lying mapped out beneath one's feet. 
From here, we look back upon the way we have come, and 
forward to the way we are going. Northward lies the cata- 
ract — a network of islets with flashes of liver between. 
Southward, the broad current comes on in one smooth, 
glassy sheet, unbroken by a single rapid. How eagerly we 
turn our eyes that way; for yonder lie Abou Simbel and 
all the mysterious lands beyond the cataracts! But we 
cannot see far, for the river curves away grandly to the 
right and vanishes behind a range of granite hills. 
A similar chain hems in the opposite bank; while high 
above the palm-groves fringing the edge of the shore 
stand two ruined convents on two rocky prominences, 
like a couple of castles on the Rhine. On the east 
bank opposite, a few mud houses and a group of 
superb carob trees mark the site of a village, the 
greater part of which lies hidden among palms. Behind 
this village opens a vast sand valley, like an arm of the sea 
from which the waters have retreated. The old channel 
along which we rode the other day went plowing that 

* See M. P. J. de Horrack's translation of "The Lamentations of 
Isis and Nephthys. Records of the Past," vol. ii, p. 117 et seq. 

PHILJE. 209 

way straight across from Philaj. Last of all, forming the 
western side of this fourfold view, we have the island of 
Biggeh — rugged, mountainous, and divided from Philae by 
so narrow a channel that every sound from the native vil- 
lage on the opposite steep is as audidle is though it came 
from the court-yard at our feet. That village is built in 
and about the ruins of a tiny Ptolemaic temple, of which 
only a screen and doorway and part of a small propylon 
remain. We can see a woman pounding coffee on the 
threshold of one of the huts, and some children scrambling 
about the rocks in pursuit of a wandering turkey. Catch- 
ing sight of us up here on the roof of the temple, they 
come whooping and scampering down to the water side 
and with shrill cries importune us for backshish. Unless 
the stream is wider than it looks one might almost pitch 
a piaster into their outstretched hands. 

Mr. Hay, it is said, discovered a secret passage of solid 
masonry tunneled under the river from island to island. 
The entrance on this side was from a shaft in the Temple of 
Isis.* We are not told how far Mr. Hay was able to pene- 
trate in the direction of Biggeh ; but the passage would 
lead up, most probably, to the little temple opposite. 

Perhaps the most entirely curious and unaccustomed 
features in all this scene are the mountains. They are 
like none that any of us have seen in our diverse wander- 
ings. Other mountains are homogeneous and thrust 
themselves up from below in masses suggestive of primitive 
disruption and upheaval. These seem to lie upon the sur- 
face foundationless; rock loosely piled on rock, bowlder on 
bowlder; like stupendous cairns, the work of demigods 
and giants. Here and there, on shelf or summit, a huge 
rounded mass, many tons in weight, hangs poised capri- 
ciously. Most of these blocks, I am persuaded, would 
" log" if put to the test. 

But for a specimen stone commend me to yonder amaz- 
ing monolith down by the water's edge opposite, near the 
carob trees and the ferry. Though but a single block of 
orange-red granite, it looks like three; and the Arabs, see- 
ing it in some fancied resemblance to an arm-chair, call it 
Pharaoh's throne. Rounded and polished by primeval 

*" Operations Carried On at the Pyramids of Ghizeh," — Col. 
Howard "Vyse, London, 1840, vol. i, p. 63. 


iloods and emblazoned with royal cartouches of extraordi- 
nary size, it seems to have attracted the attention of pil- 
grims in all ages. Kings, conquerors, priests, travelers, 
have covered it with records of victories, of religious festi- 
vals, of prayers, and offerings, and acts of adoration. Some 
of these are older by a thousand years and more than the 
temples on the island oj)posite. 

Such, roughly summed up, are the fourfold surround- 
ings of Philae — the cataract, the river, the desert, the 
environing mountains. The Holy Island — beautiful, life- 
less, a thing of the far past, with all its wealth of sculpture, 
painting, history, poetry, tradition — sleeps, or seems to 
sleep, in the midst. 

It is one of the world's famous landscapes, and it 
deserves its fame. Every sketcher sketches it; every trav- 
eler describes it. Yet it is just one of those places of 
which the objective and subjective features are so equally 
balanced that it bears putting neither into words nor 
colors. The sketcher must perforce leave out the atmos- 
phere of association which informs his subject ; and the 
writer's description is at best no better than a catalogue 




Sailing gently southward — the river opening wide 
before us, Philfe dwindling in the rear — we feel that we 
are now fairly over the border; and that if Egypt was 
strange and far from home, Nubia is stranger and farther 
still. The Nile here flows deep and broad. The rocky 
heights that hem it in so close on either side are still black 
on the one hand, golden on the other. The banks are 
narrower than ever. The space in some places is little 
wider than a towing-path. In others, there is barely 
room for a belt of date-palms and a slip of alluvial soil, 
every foot of which produces its precious growth of durra 
or barley. The steep verge below is green with lentils to 
the water's edge. As the river recedes, it leaves each day 
a margin of fresh, wet soil, in which the careful husband- 
man hastens to scratch a new furrow and sow another line 
of seeds. He cannot afford to let so much as an inch of 
that kindly mud lie idle. 

Gliding along with half-filled sail, we observe how 
entirely the population seems to be regulated by the extent 
of arable soil. Where the inundation has room to spread, 
villages come thicker; more dusky figures are seen moving 
to and fro in the shade of the palms; more children race 
along the banks, shrieking for backshish. When the shelf 
of soil is narrowed, on the contrary, to a mere fringe of 
luminous green dividing the rock from the river, there is 
a startling absence of everything like life. Mile after mile 
drags its slow length along, uncheered by any sign of 
human habitation. When now and then a solitary native. 
armed with gun or spear, is seen striding along the edge of 
the desert, he only seems to make the general solitude 
more apparent. 

Meanwhile, it is not only men and women whom we miss 
— men laboring by the river side; women with babies 


astride on their shoulders, or water-jars balanced on their 
heads — but birds, beasts, boats; everything that we have 
been used to see along the river. The buffaloes dozing at 
midday in the shallows, the camels stalking home in single 
file toward sunset, the water-fowl haunting the sand-banks, 
seem suddenly to have vanished. Even donkeys are now 
rare; and as for horses, I do not remember to have seen one 
during the seven weeks we spent in Nubia. All night, too, 
instead of the usual chorus of dogs barking furiously from 
village to village, we hear only the long-drawn wail of an 
occasional jackal. It is not wonderful, however, that 
animal life should be scarce in a district where the scant 
soil yields barely food enough for those who till it. To 
realize how very scant it is, one needs only to remember 
that about Derr, where it is at its widest, the annual 
deposit nowhere exceeds half a mile in breadth; while for 
the most part of the way between Philse and Wady Halfeh 
— a distance of two hundred and ten miles — it averages 
from six to sixty yards. 

Here, then, more than ever, one seems to see how 
entirely these lands which we call Egypt and Nubia are 
nothing but the banks of one solitary river in the midst of 
a world of desert. In Egypt, the valley is often so wide 
that one forgets the stony waste beyond the corn-lands. 
But in Nubia the desert is ever present. AVe cannot 
forget it, if we would. The barren mountains press upon 
our path, showering down avalanches of granite on the 
one side and torrents of yellow sand on the other. We 
know that those stones are always falling; that those sands 
are always drifting; that the river has hard work to hold 
its own; and that the desert is silently encroaching day by 

These golden sand-streams are the newest and most 
beautiful features in the landscape. They pour down from 
the high level of the Libyan desert just as the snows of 
Switzerland pour down from the upper plateaux of the 
Alps. Through every ravine and gap they find a channel 
— here trickling in tiny rivulets; flowing yonder in broad 
torrents that widen to the river. 

Becalmed a few miles above Philse, we found ourselves 
at the foot of one of these largest drifts. The M. B.'s 
challenged us to climb the slope and see the sunset from 
the desert. It was about six o'clock, and the thermometer 


was standing at 80° in the coolest corner of the large 
saloon. We ventured to suggest that the top was a long 
way up ; but the M. B.'s would take no refusal. So 
away we went; panting, breathless, bewailing our hard 

fate. L and the writer had done some difficult walking 

in their time, over ice and snow, on lava cold and hot, up 
cinder-slopes and beds of mountain torrents ; hut this 
innocent-looking sand-drift proved quite as hard to climb 
as any of them. The sand lies wonderfully loose and 
light, and is as hot as if it had been baked in an oven. 
Into this the foot plunges ankle-deep, slipping back at 
every step, and leaving a huge hole into which the sand 
pours down again like water. Looking back, you trace 
your course by a succession of funnel-shaped pits, each 
larger than a wash-hand basin. Though your slipper be 
as small as Cinderella's, the next comer shall not be able 
to tell whether it was a lady who went up last, or a camel. 
It is toilsome work, too; for the foot finds neither rest nor 
resistance, and the strain upon the muscles is unremitting. 

But the beauty of the sand more than repays the fatigue 
of climbing it. Smooth, sheeny, satiny; fine as diamond- 
dust; supple, undulating, luminous, it lies in the most 
exquisite curves and wreaths, like a snow-drift turned to 
gold. Remodeled by every breath that blows, its ever- 
varying surface presents an endless play of delicate lights 
and shadows. There lives not the sculptor who could 
render those curves; and I doubt whether Turner himself, 
in his tenderest and subtlest mood, could have done 
justice to those complex grays and ambers. 

Having paused to rest upon an out-cropping ledge of 
rock about half-way up, we came at length to the top of 
the last slope and found ourselves on the level of the desert. 
Here, faithful to the course of the river, the first objects to 
meet our eyes were the old familiar telegraph posts and 
wires. Beyond them, to north and south, a crowd of 
peaks closed in the view; but westward, a rolling waste of 
hillock and hollow opened away to where the sun, a crim- 
son globe, had already half-vanished below the rim of the 

One could not resist going a few steps farther, just to 
touch the nearest of those telegraph posts. It was like 
reaching out a hand toward home. 

When the sun dropped we turned back. The valley 


below was already steeped in dusk. The Nile, glimmering 
like a coiled snake in the shade, reflected the evening sky 
in three separate reaches. On the Arabian side a far- oil 
mountain-chain stood out, purple and jagged, against the 
eastern horizon. 

To come down was easy. Driving our heels well into 
the sand, we half ran, half glissaded, and soon reached the 
bottom. Here we were met by an old Nubian woman, 
who had trudged up in all haste from the nearest village 
to question our sailors about one Yusef, her son, of whom 
she had heard nothing for nearly a year. She was a very 
poor old woman — a widow — and this Yusef was her only 
son. Hoping to better himself he had worked his passage 
to Cairo in a cargo-boat some eighteen months ago. Twice 
since then he had sent her messages and money; but now 
eleven months had gone by in silence, and she feared he 
must be dead. Meanwhile her date-palm, taxed to the 
full value of its produce, had this year yielded not a 
piaster of profit. Her mud hut had fallen in, and there 
was no Yusef to repair it. Old and sick, she now could 
only beg ; and her neighbors, by whose charity she sub- 
sisted, were but a shade less poor than herself. 

Our men knew nothing of the missing Yusef. Rei's 
Hassan promised when he went back to make inquiries 
among the boatmen of Boulak. "But then," he added, 
"there are so many Yusefs in Cairo!" 

It made one's heart ache to see the tremulous eagerness 
with which the poor soul put her questions, and the 
crushed look in her face when she turned away. 

And now, being fortunate in respect of the wind, which 
for the most part blows steadily from the north between 
sunrise and sunset, we make good progress, and for the 
next ten days live pretty much on board our dahabeeyah. 
The main features of the landscape go on repeating them- 
selves with but little variation from day to day. The 
mountains wear their habitual livery of black and gold. 
The river, now widening, now narrowing, flows between 
banks blossoming with lentils and lupins. With these, 
and yellow acacia-tufts, and blue castor-oil berries, and the 
weird coloquintida, with its downy leaf and milky juice 
and puff bladder fruit, like a green peach tinged with 
purple, we make our daily bouquet for the dinner-table. 
All other flowers have vanished, and even these are hard to 


get in a land where every green blade is precious to the 

Now, too, the climate becomes sensibly warmer. The 
heat of the sun is so great at midday that, even with the 
north breeze blowing, we can no longer sit on deck between 
twelve and three. Toward sundown, when the wind 
drops, it turns so sultry that to take a walk on shore 
comes to be regarded as a duty rather than as a pleasure. 
Thanks, however, to that indomitable painter who is 
always ready for an afternoon excursion, we do sometimes 
walk for an hour before dinner; striking off generally into 
the desert ; looking for onyxes and carnelians among the 
pebbles that here and there strew the surface of the sand, 
and watching in vain for jackals and desert-hares. 

Sometimes we follow the banks instead of the desert, 
coming now and then to a creaking sakkieh turned by a 
melancholy buffalo ; or to a native village hidden behind 
dwarf-palms. Here each hut has its tiny forecourt, in the 
midst of which stand the mud oven and mud cupboard of 
the family — two dumpy cones of smooth gray clay, like 
big chimney-pots — the one capped with a lid, the other 
fitted with a little wooden door and wooden bolt. Some of 
the houses have a barbaric ornament palmed off, so to say, 
upon the walls; the pattern being simply the impression of 
a human hand dipped in red or yellow ocher and applied 
while the surface is moist. 

The amount of " bazaar" that takes place whenever we 
enter one of these villages is quite alarming. The dogs 
first give notice of our approach ; and presently we 
are surrounded by all the women and girls of the place, 
offering live pigeons, eggs, vegetable marrows, necklaces, 
nose-rings and silver bracelets for sale. The boys pester us 
to buy wretched, half-dead chameleons. The men stand 
aloof, and leave the bargaining to the women. 

And the women not only know how to bargain, but how 
to assess the relative value of every coin that passes current 
on the Nile. Rupees, roubles, reyals, dollars and shillings 
are as intelligible to them as paras or piasters. Sovereigns 
are not too heavy nor napoleons too light for them. The 
times are changed since Belzoni's Nubian, after staring 
contemptuously at the first piece of money he had ever 
seen, asked: "Who would give anything for that small 
piece of metal?" 


The necklaces consist of onyx, carnelian, bone, silver, 
and colored glass beads, with now and then a stray scarab 
or amulet in the ancient blue porcelian. The arrangement 
of color is often very subtle. The brow-pendants in gold 
repoussee, and the massive old silver bracelets, rough with 
knobs and bosses, are most interesting in design, and per- 
petuate patterns of undoubted antiquity. The M. B.'s 
picked up one really beautiful collarette of silver and coral, 
which might have been worn three thousand years ago by 
Pharaoh's daughter. 

When on board, we begin now to keep a sharp lookout 
for crocodiles. "We hear of them constantly — see their 
tracks upon the sand-banks in the river — go through 
agonies of expectation over every black speck in the dis- 
tance; yet are perpetually disappointed. The farther south 
we go the more impatient we become. The E's, whose 
dahabeeyah, homeward-bound, drifts slowly past one calm 
morning, report "eleven beauties," seen altogether yester- 
day upon a sand island, some ten miles higher up. Mr. 
C. B.'s boat, garlanded with crocodiles from stem to stern, 
tills us with envy. We would give our ears (almost) to see 
one of these engaging reptiles dangling from either our 
own mainmast or that cf the faithful Bagstones. Alfred, 
who has set his heart on bagging at least half a dozen, says 
nothing, but grows gloomier day by day. At night, when 
the moon is up and less misanthropic folk are in bed and 
asleep, he rambles moodily into the desert, after jackals. 

Meanwhile, on we go, starting at sunrise; mooring at 
sunset; sailing, tracking, punting; never stopping for an 
hour by day, if we can help it; and pushing straight for 
Abou Simbel with as little delay as possible. Thus we pass 
the pylons of Dabod with their background of desert; 
Gertassee, a miniature Suniuin, seen toward evening 
against the glowing sunset; Tafah, rich in palms, with 
white columns gleaming through green foliage by the 
water side; the cliffs, islands, and rapids of Kalabsheh, 
and the huge temple which rises like a fortress in their 
midst; Dendur, a tiny chapel with a single pylon; and 
Gerf Hossayn, which from this distance might be taken 
for the mouth of a rock-cut tomb in the face of the preci- 
pice. About half way between Kalabsheh and Dendur, we 
enter the tropic of cancer. From this day till the day 
when we repass that invisible boundary, there is a marked 


change in the atmospheric conditions under which we live. 
The days get gradually hotter, especially at noon, when the 
sun is almost vertical; but the freshness of night and the 
chill of early morning are no more. Unless when a strong 
wind blows from the north, we no longer know what it is 
to need a shawl on deck in the evening; or an extra cover- 
ing on our beds toward dawn. We sleep with our cabin- 
windows open, and enjoy a delicious equality of tempera- 
ture from sundown to sunrise. The days and nights, too, 
are of almost equal length. 

Now, also, the southern cross and a second group of 
stars, which we conclude must form part of the Centaur, 
are visible between two and four every morning. They 
have been creeping up, a star at a time, for the last fort- 
night; but are still so low upon the eastern horizon that 
we can only see them when there comes a break in the 
mountain-chain on that side of the river. At the same 
time, our old familiar friends of the northern hemisphere, 
looking strangely distorted and decidedly out of their 
proper place, are fast disappearing on the opposite side of 
the heavens. Orion seems to be lying on his back, and 
the Great Bear to be standing on his tail; while Cassiopeia 
and a number of others have deserted en masse. The 
zenith, meanwhile, is but thinly furnished; so that we 
seem to have traveled away from the one hemisphere and 
not yet to have reached the other. As for the Southern 
Cross, we reserve our opinion till we get farther south. It 
would be treason to hint that we are disappointed in so 
famous a constellation. 

After Gerf Hossayn, the next place of importance for 
which our maps bid us lookout, is Dakkeh. As we draw 
near, expecting hourly to see something of the temple, the 
Nile increases in breadth and beauty. It is a peaceful, 
glassy morning. The men have been tracking since 
dawn, and stop to breakfast at the foot of a sandy bank, 
wooded with tamarisks and gum-trees. A glistening net- 
work of gossamer floats from bough to bough. The sky 
overhead is of a tender, luminous blue, such as we never 
see in Europe. The air is wonderfully still. The river, 
which here takes a sudden bend toward the east, looks like 
a lake and seems to be barred ahead by the desert. Pres- 
ently a funeral passes along the opposite bank; the chief 
mourner nourishing a long staff, like a drum-major; the 


women snatching up handfuls of dust and scattering it 

upon their heads. We hear their wild wail long after the 
procession is out of sight. 

Going on again presently, our whole attention becomes 
absorbed by the new and singular geological features of the 
Libyan desert. A vast plain covered with isolated mount- 
ains of volcanic structure, it looks like some strange 
transformation of the Puy de Dome plateau, with all 
its wind-swept pastures turned to sand and its grassy 
craters stripped to barrenness. The more this plain 
widens out before our eyes, the more it bristles with peaks. 
As we round the corner, and Dakkeh, like a smaller Edfu, 
comes into sight upon the western bank, the whole desert 
on that side, as far as the eve can see, presents the unmis- 
takable aspect of one vast field of volcanoes. As in Au- 
vergne, these cones are of all sizes and heights; some low 
and rounded, like mere bubbles that have cooled without 
bursting; others ranging apparently from one thousand to 
fifteen hundred feet in height. The broken craters of sev- 
eral are plainly distinguishable by the help of a field-glass. 
One in particular is so like our old friend the Puy de Pa- 
riou that in a mere black-and-white sketch the one might 
readily be mistaken for the other. 

We were surprised to find no account of the geology of 
this district in any of our books. Murray and Wilkinson 
pass it in silence; and writers of travels — one or two of 
whom notice only the "pyramidal " shape of the hills — 
are for the most part content to do likewise. None seem 
to have observed their obvious volcanic origin. 

Thanks to a light breeze that sprang up in the afternoon, 
we were able to hoist our big sail again and to relieve the 
men from tracking. Thus we glided past the ruins of Ma- 
harrakeh, which, seen from the river, looked like a Greek 
portico set in a hollow waste of burning desert. Next 
came Wady Sabooah, a temple half-buried in sand, near 
which we met a tiny dahabeeyah, manned by two Nubians 
and flying the star and crescent. A shabby government 
inspector, in European dress and a fez, lay smoking on a 
mat outside his cabin door ; while from a spar overhead 
there hung a mighty crocodile. The monster was of a 
greenish-brown color and measured at least sixteen feet 
from head to tail. His jaws yawned; and one flat and 
flabby arm and ponderous paw swung with the motion of 
the boat, looking horribly human. 


The painter, with an eye to foregrounds, made a bid for 
him on the spot; but the shabby inspector was not to be 
moved by considerations of gain. He preferred his croco- 
dile to infidel gold, and scarcely deigned even to reply to 
the offer. 

Seen in the half-light of a tropical after-glow — the pur- 
ple mountains coming down in detached masses to the 
water's edge on the one side; the desert with its volcanic 
peaks yet rosy upon the other — we thought the approach 
to Korosko more picturesque than anything we had yet 
seen south of the cataract. As the dusk deepened the 
moon rose ; and the palms that had just room to grow 
between the mountains and the river turned from bronze 
to silver. It was half-twilight, half-moonlight, by the 
time we reached the mooring-place where Talhamy, who 
had been sent forward in the small boat half an hour ago, 
jumped on board laden with a packet of letters and a sheaf 
of newspapers. For here, where the great caravan-route 
leads off across the desert to Khartum, we touched the 
first Nubian postoffice. It was only ten days since we had 
received our last budget at Assfian; but it seemed like ten 




It so happened that we arrived at Korosko on the eve of 
El-Id el-Kebir, or the anniversary of the sacrifice of Abra- 
ham ; when, according to the Moslem version, Ishmael 
was the intended victim and a ram the substituted offering. 
Now El-Id el-Kebir, being one of the great feasts of the 
Mohammedan calendar, is a day of gifts and good wishes. 
The rich visit their friends and distribute meat to the 
poor; and every true believer goes to the mosque to say his 
prayers in the morning. So, instead of starting as usual at 
sunrise, we treated our sailors to a sheep and waited till 
past noon, that they might have a holiday. 

They began the day by trooping off to the village mosque 
in all the glory of new blue blouses, spotless turbans and 
scarlet leather slippers; then loitered about till dinner- 
time, when the said sheep, stewed with lentils and garlic, 
brought the festivities to an end. It was a thin and 
ancient beast and must have been horribly tough; but an 
epicure might have envied the childlike enjoyment with 
which our honest fellows squatted, cross-legged and happy, 
round the smoking cauldron ; chattering, laughing, feast- 
ing; dipping their fingers in the common mess; washing 
the whole down with long draughts of Nile water; and 
finishing off with a hubble-bubble passed from lip to lip 
and a mouthful of muddy coffee. By a little after midday 
they had put off their finery, harnessed themselves to the 
tow-rope and set to work to haul us through the rocky 
shoals which here impede the current. 

From Korosko to Derr, the actual distance is about 
eleven miles and a half; but what with obstructions in the 
bed of the river, and what with a wind that would have 
been favorable but for another great bend which the Nile 
takes toward the east, those eleven miles and a half cost us 
the best part of two days' hard tracking. 


Landing from time to time when the boat was close in 
shore, we found the order of planting everywhere the 
same, lupins and lentils on the slope against the water- 
line; an uninterrupted grove of palms on the edge of the 
bank; in the space beyond, fields of cotton and young 
corn; and then the desert. The arable soil was divided 
off, as usual, by hundreds of water channels, and seemed 
to be excellently farmed as well as abundantly irrigated. 
Not a weed was to be seen; not an inch of soil appeared to 
be wasted. In odd corners where there was room for 
nothing else, cucumbers and vegetable-marrows flourished 
and bore fruit. Nowhere had we seen castor-berries so 
large, cotton-pods so full, or palms so lofty. 

Here also, for the first time out of Egypt, we observed 
among the bushes a few hoopoes and other small birds; 
and on a sand-slope down by the river a group of wild 
ducks. We — that is to say, one of the M. B.'s and the 
writer — had wandered off that way in search of crocodiles. 
The two dahabeeyahs, each with its file of trackers, were 
slowly laboring up against the current about a mile away. 
All was intensely hot and intensely silent. We had 
walked far and had seen no crocodile. What we should 
have done if we had met one I am not prepared to say. 
Perhaps we should have run away. At all events, we were 
just about to turn back when we caught sight of the ducks 
sunning themselves, half asleep, on the brink of a tiny 
pool about an eighth of a mile away. 

Creeping cautiously under the bank, we contrived to get 
within a few yards of them. They were four — a drake, a 
duck, and two young ones — exquisitely feathered and as 
small as teal. The parent-birds could scarcely have 
measured more than eight inches from head to tail. All 
alike had chestnut-colored heads with a narrow buff stripe 
down the middle, like a parting ; maroon backs ; wing- 
feathers maroon and gray; and tails tipped with buff. 
They were so pretty, and the little family party was so 
complete, that the writer could not help secretly rejoicing 
that Alfred and his gun were safe on board the Bagstones. 

High above the Libyan bank on the sloping verge of the 
desert, stands, half-drowned in sand, the little temple of 
Amada. Seeing it from the opposite side while duck- 
hunting in the morning, I had taken it for one of the 
many stone shelters erected by Mohammed Ali for the 


accommodation of cattle levied annually in the Soudan. It 
proved, however, to be a temple, small but massive; built 
with squared blocks of sandstone; and dating back to the 
very old times of the Usurtesens and Thothmes. It con- 
sists of a portico, a transverse atrium, and three small 
chambers. The pillars of the portico are mere square 
piers. The rooms are small and low. The roof, con- 
structed of oblong blocks, is flat from end to end. As an 
architectural structure it is in fact but a few degrees 
removed from Stonehenge. 

A shed without, this little temple is, however, a cameo 
within. Nowhere, save in the tomb of Ti, had we seen 
bas-reliefs so delicately modeled, so rich in color. Here, 
as elsewhere, the walls are covered with groups of kings 
and gods and hieroglyphic texts. The figures are slender 
and animated. The head-dresses, jewelry, and patterned 
robes are elaborately drawn and painted. Every head 
looks like a portrait; every hieroglyphic form is a study in 

Apart from its exquisite finish, the wall-sculpture of 
Amada has, however, nothing. in common with the wall- 
sculpture of the ancient empire. It belongs to the period 
of Egyptian renaissance; and, though inferior in power 
and naturalness to the work of the elder school, it marks 
just that moment of special development when the art of 
modeling in low relief had touched the highest level to 
which it ever again attained. That highest level belongs 
to the reigns of Thothmes II and Thothmes III; 
just as the perfect era in architecture belongs to the 
reigns of Seti I and Barneses II. It is for this reason 
that Amada is so precious. It registers an epoch in 
the history of the art, and gives us the best of 
that epoch in the hour of its zenith. The sculptor 
is here seen to be working within bounds already pre- 
scribed; yet within those bounds he still enjoys a certain 
liberty. His art, though largely conventionalized, is not 
yet stereotyped. His sense of beauty still finds expression. 
There is, in short, a grace and sweetness about the bas- 
relief designs of Amada for which one looks in vain to the 
storied walls of Karnak. 

The chambers are half-choked with sand and we had to 
crawl into the sanctuary upon our hands and knees. A 
long inscription at the upper end records how Amenhotep 


II, returning from his first campaign against the Ruten, 
slew seven kings with his own hand ; six of whom were 
gibbeted upon the ramparts of Thebes, while the body of 
the seventh was sent to Ethiopia by water and suspended 
on the outer wall of the city of Napata,* "in order that 
the negroes might behold the victories of the Pharaoh in 
all the lands of the world." 

In the darkest corner of the atrium we observed a curi- 
ous tableau representing the king embraced by a goddess. 
He holds a short, straight sword in his right hand and the 
crux ansata in his left. On his head he wears the khe- 
persh, or war-helmet; a kind of a blue miter studded with 
gold stars and ornamented with the royal asp. The god- 
dess clasps him lovingly about the neck and bends her lips 
to his. The artist has given her the yellow complexion 
conventionally ascribed to women ; but her saucy mouth 
and nez retrousse are distinctly European. Dressed in 
the fashion of the nineteenth century, she might have 
served Leech as a model for his girl of the period. 

The sand has drifted so high at the back of the temple 
that one steps upon the roof as upon a terrace only just 
raised above the level of the desert. Soon that level will 
be equal; and if nothing is done to rescue it within the 
next generation or two, the whole building will become 
engulfed and its very site be forgotten. 

The view from the roof, looking back toward Korosko 
and forward toward Derr, is one of the finest — perhaps 
quite the finest — in Nubia. The Nile curves grandly 
through the foreground. The palm-woods of Derr are 
green in the distance. The mountain region which we 
have just traversed ranges a vast crescent of multitudinous 
peaks, round two-thirds of the horizon. Ridge beyond 
ridge, chain beyond chain, flushing crimson in light and 
deepening through every tint of amethyst and purple in 
shadow, those innumerable summits fade into tenderest 
blue upon the horizon. As the sun sets they seem to 
glow; to become incandescent; to be touched with flame — 
as in the old time when every crater was a font of fire. 

* A city of Ethiopia, identified with the ruins at Gebel Barkel. 
The worship of Amen was established at Napata toward the end of 
the twentieth dynasty, and it was from the priests of Thebes who 
settled at that time in Napata that the Ethiopian conquerors of 
Egypt (twenty-third dynasty) were descended. 


Struggling next morning through a maze of sand-banks, 
we reached Derr soon after breakfast. This town — the 
Nubian capital — lies a little lower than the level of the 
bank, so that only a few mud walls are visible from the 
river. Having learned by this time that a capital town is 
but a bigger village, containing perhaps a mosque and a 
market-place, we were not disappointed by the unimposing 
aspect of the Nubian metropolis. 

Great, however, was our surprise when, instead of the 
usual clamorous crowd screaming, pushing, scrambling and 
bothering for backshish, we found the landing-place 
deserted. Two or three native boats lay up under the 
bank, empty. There was literally not a soul in sight. 
L and the little lady, eager to buy some of the basket- 
work for which the place is famous, looked blank. Tal- 
hamy, anxious to lay in a store of fresh eggs and vegetables, 
looked blanker. 

We landed. Before us lay an open space, at the farther 
end of which, facing the river, stood the governor's palace; 
the said palace being a magnified mud hut, with a frieze 
of baked bricks round the top and an imposing stone door- 
way. In this doorway, according to immemorial usage, 
the great man gives audience. We saw him — a mere 
youth, apparently — puffing away at a long chibouque, in 
the midst of a little group of graybeard elders. They 
looked at us gravely, immovably; like smoking automata. 
One longed to go up and ask them if they were all trans- 
formed to black granite from the waists to the feet and if 
the inhabitants of Derr had been changed into blue stones. 

Still bent on buying baskets, if baskets were to be 
bought — bent also on rinding out the whereabouts of a cer- 
tain rock-cut temple which our books told us to look for 
at the back of the town, we turned aside into a straggling- 
street leading toward the desert. The houses looked 
better built than usual ; some pains having evidently been 
bestowed in smoothing the surface of the mud and orna- 
menting the doorways with fragments of colored pottery. 
A cracked willow-pattern dinner-plate set, like a fanlight, 
over one, and a white soup-plate over another, came doubt- 
less from the canteen of some English dahabeeyah, and 
were the pride of their possessors. Looking from end to 
end of this street — and it was a tolerably long one, with 
the Nile at one end and the desert at the other — we saw no 


sign or shadow of moving creature. Only one young 
woman, hearing strange voices talking a strange tongue, 
peeped out suddenly from a half-opened door as we went 
by ; then, seeing me look at the baby in her arms (which 
was hideous and had sore eyes), drew her veil across its 
face and darted back again. She thought I coveted her 
treasure and she dreaded the Evil Eye. 

All at once we heard a sound like the far-off quivering 
cry of many owls. It shrilled — swelled — wavered — dropped 
— then died away, like the moaning of the wind tit sea. 
We held our breath and listened. We had never heard 
anything so wild and plaintive. Then suddenly, through 
an opening between the houses, we saw a great crowd on a 
space of rising ground about a quarter of a mile away. 
This crowd consisted of men only — a close, turbaned mass 
some three or four hundred in number ; all standing quite 
still and silent; all looking in the same direction. 

Hurrying on to the desert we saw the strange sight at 
which they were looking. 

The scene was a barren sand-slope hemmed in between 
the town and the cliffs and dotted over with graves. The 
actors were all women. Huddled together under a long 
wall some few hundred yards away, bareheaded and 
exposed to the blaze of the morning sun, they out- 
numbered the men by a full third. Some were sitting, 
some standing ; while in their midst, pressing round a 
young woman who seemed to act as leader, there swayed 
and circled and shuffled a compact phalanx of dancers. 
Upon this young woman the eyes of all were turned. A 
black Cassandra, she rocked her body from side to side, 
clapped her hands above her head and poured forth a 
wild declamatory chant which the rest echoed. This 
chant seemed to be divided into strophes, at the end of 
each of which she paused, beat her breast, and broke into 
that terrible wail that we had heard just now from a 

Her brother, it seemed, had died last night; and we were 
witnessing his funeral. 

The actual interment was over by the time we reached 
the spot ; but four men were still busy filling the grave 
with sand, which they scraped up, a bowlful at a time, 
ami stamped down with their naked feet. 

The deceased being unmarried, his sister led the choir 


of mourners. She was a tall, gaunt young woman 'of the 
plainest Nubian type, with high cheek-bones, eyes slanting 
upward at the corners, and an enormous mouth full of 
glittering teeth. On her head she wore a white cloth 
smeared with dust. Her companions were distinguished 
by a narrow white fillet, bound about the brow and tied 
with two long ends behind. They had hidden their neck- 
laces and bracelets and wore trailing robes and shawls 
and loose trousers of black or blue calico. 

We stood for a long time watching their uncouth dance. 
None of the women seemed to notice us; but the men made 
way civilly and gravely, letting us pass to the front, that we 
might get a better view of the ceremony. 

By and by an old woman rose slowly from the midst of 
those who were sitting and moved with tottering, uncertain 
steps toward a higher point of ground, a little apart from 
the crowd. There was. a movement of compassion among 
the men ; one of whom turned to the writer and said, 
gently: " His mother." 

She was a small, feeble old woman, very poorly clad. 
Her hands and arms were like the hands and arms of a 
mum my, and her withered black face looked ghastly under 
its mask of dust. For a few moments, swaying her body 
slowly to and fro, she watched the grave-diggers stamping 
down the sand ; then stretched out her arms and broke 
into a torrent of lamentations. The dialect of Deri* is 
strange and barbarous ; but we felt as if we understood 
every word she uttered. Presently the tears began to 
make channels down her cheeks — her voice became choked 
with sobs — and, falling down in a sort of helpless heap, 
like a broken-hearted dog, she lay with her face to the 
ground, and there stayed. 

Meanwhile, the sand being now filled in and mounded up, 
the men betook themselves to a place where the rock had 
given way and selected a couple of big stones from the 
debris. These they placed at the head and foot of the 
grave and all was done. 

Instantly — perhaps at an appointed signal, though we 
saw none given — the wailing ceased; the women rose; every 
tongue was loosened; and the whole became a moving, 

* The men hereabout can nearly all speak Arabic; but the women 
of Nubia know only the Kensee and Berberee tongues, the first of 
which is spoken as far as Korosko, 


animated, noisy throng dispersing in a dozen different 

We turned away with the rest, the writer and the painter 
rambling off in search of the temple, while the other three 
devoted themselves to the pursuit of baskets and native 
jewelry. When we looked back presently the crowd was 
gone ; but the desolate mother still lay motionless in the 

It chanced that we witnessed many funerals in Nubia; 
so many that one sometimes felt inclined to doubt whether 
the governor of Assuan had not reported over-favorably of 
the health of the province. The ceremonial, with its 
dancing and chanting, was always much the same; always 
barbaric, and in the highest degree artificial. One 
would like to know how much of it is derived 
from purely African sources, and how much from ancient 
Egyptian tradition. The dance is most probably Ethio- 
pian. Lepsius, traveling through the Soudan in A. d. 1844,* 
saw something of the kind at a funeral in Wed Medi- 
neh, about half-way between Sennaar and Khartum. The 
white fillet worn by the choir of mourners is, on the other 
hand, distinctly Egyptian. We afterward saw it repre- 
sented in paintings of funeral processions on the walls of 
several tombs at Thebes, f where the wailing women are 
seen to be gathering up the dust in their hands and casting 
it upon their heads, just as they do now. As for the wail 
— beginning high and descending through a scale divided 
not by semi-tones but thirds of tones to a final note about 
an octave and a half lower than that from which it started 
— it probably echoes to this day the very pitch and rhythm 
of the wail that followed the Pharaohs to their sepulchers in 
the Valley of the Tombs of the Kings. Like the zaghareet, 
or joy-cry, which every mother teaches to her little 
girls and which, it is said, can only be acquired in very early 
youth, it has been handed down from generation to genera- 
tion through an untold succession of ages, The song to 
which the fellah works his shaduf and the monotonous 

* Lepsius 1 Letters from Egypt, Ethiopia, etc. Letter xviii, p. 184. 
Bolin's ed., A. D. 1853. 

f See the interesting account of funereal rites and ceremonies in 
Sir GL Wilkinson's "Ancient Egyptians," vol. ii, cli. x, Lond., 1871. 
Also wood-cuts Nos. 493 and 494 in tlie same chapter of the same 


chant of the sakkieh-d river have, perhaps, as remote an 
origin. But of all old, mournful, human sounds, the 
death-wail that we heard at Derr is perhaps one of the 
very oldest — certainly the most mournful. 

The temple here, dating from the reign of Rameses II, 
is - of rude design and indifferent execution. Partly con- 
structed, partly excavated, it is approached by a forecourt, 
the roof of which was supported by eight square columns. 
Of these columns only the bases remain. Four massive 
piers, against which once stood four colossi, upheld the 
roof of the portico and gave admission by three entrances 
to the rock-cut chambers beyond. The portico is now 
roofless. Nothing is left of the colossi but their feet. All 
is ruin; and ruin without beauty. 

Seen from within, however, the place is not without a 
kind of gloomy grandeur. Two rows of square columns, 
three at each side, divide the large hall into a nave and 
two aisles. This hall is about forty feet square, and the 
pillars have been left standing in the living rock, like those 
in the early tombs at Shit. The daylight, half-blocked] 
out by the fallen portico, is pleasantly subdued, and finds 
its way dimly to the sanctuary at the farther end. 
The sculptures of the interior, though much dam- 
aged, are less defaced than those of the outer court. 
Walls, pillars, doorways, are covered with bas-reliefs. 
The king and Ptah, the king and Ra, the king and 
Amen, stand face to face, hand in hand, on each of the 
four sides of every column. Scenes of worship, of slaughter, 
of anointing, cover the walls; and the blank spaces are 
filled in as usual with hieroglyphic inscriptions. Among 
these Champollion discovered an imperfect list of the sons 
and daughters of Rameses II. Four gods once sat 
enthroned at the upper end of the sanctuary; but they 
have shared the fate of the colossi outside and oidy their 
feet remain. The wall sculptures of this dark little 
chamber are, however, better preserved, and better worth 
preservation, than those of the hall. A procession of 
priests, bearing on their shoulders the bari, or sacred boat, 
is quite unharmed; and even the color is yet fresh upon a 
full-length figure of Ilathor close by. 

But more interesting than all these — more interesting 
because more rare — is a sculptured palm-tree against which 
the king leans while making an offering to Amen Ra. The 


trunk is given with elaborate truthfulness; and the 
branches, though formalized, are correct and graceful in 
curvature. The tree is but an accessory. It may have 
been introduced with reference to the date-harvests which 
are the wealth of the district; but it has no kind of sacred 
significance, and is noticeable only for the naturalness of 
the treatment. Such naturalness is unusual in the art of 
this period, when the conventional persea and the equally 
conventional lotus are almost the only vegetable forms 
which appear on the walls of the temples. I can recall, 
indeed, But one similar instance in the bas-relief sculpt- 
ure of the new empire — namely, the bent, broken and 
waving bulrushes in the great lion-hunting scene at 
Medinet Ilabu, which are admirably free and studied, ap- 
parently, from nature. 

Coming out, we looked in vain along the court-yard walls 
for the battle-scene in which Champollion was yet able to 
trace the famous fighting lion of Rameses II with the 
legend describing him as " the servant of his majesty rend- 
ing his foes in pieces. " But that was forty-five years ago. 
Now it is with difficulty that one detects a few vague out- 
lines of chariot-wheels and horses. 

There are some rock-cut tombs in the face of the cliffs 
close by. The painter explored them while the writer 
sketched the interior of the temple ; but he reported of 
them as mere sepulchers, unpainted and unsculptured. 

The rocks, the sands, the sky, were at a white heat when 
we again turned our faces toward the river. Where there 
had so lately been a great multitude there was now not a 
soul. The palms nodded; the pigeons dozed; the mud 
town slept in the sun. Even the mother had gone from 
her place of weeping and left her dead to the silence of 
the desert. 

We went and looked at his grave. The fresh-turned 
sand was oidy a little darker than the rest, and, but for the 
trampled foot-marks round about, we should scarcely have 
been able to distinguish the new mound from the old ones. 
All were alike nameless. Some, more cared for than the 
rest, were bordered with large stones and filled with varie- 
gated pebbles. One or two were fenced about with a mud 
wall. All had a bowl of baked clay at the head. Wher- 
ever we saw a burial-ground in Nubia we saw these bowls 
upon the graves. The mourners, they told us, mourn 



here for forty days; during which time they come every 
Friday with freshwater, that the birds may drink from it. 
The bowls on the other graves were dry and full of sand; 
but the new bowl was brimming full and the water in it 
was hot to the touch. 

We found L and the happy coujole standing at bay 

with their backs against a big lebbich tree, surrounded by 
an immense crowd and far from comfortable. Bent on 
"bazaaring," they had probably shown themselves too 
ready to buy; so bringing the whole population, with all 
the mats, baskets, nose-rings, finger-rings, necklaces and 
bracelets in the place about their ears. Seeing the straits 
they were in, we ran to the dahabeeyah and dispatched 
three or four sailors to the rescue, who brought them off 
in triumph. 

Even in Egypt it does not answer, as a rule, to go about 
on shore without an escort. The people are apt to be 
importunate and can with difficulty be kept at a pleasant 
distance. But in Nubia, where the traveler's life was 
scarcely safe fifty years ago, unprotected Ingleezeh are 
pretty certain to be disagreeably mobbed. The natives, 
in truth, are still mere savages au fond — the old war- 
paint being but half-disguised under a thin veneer of 

Some of the women who followed our friends to the 
boat, though in complexion as black as the rest, had light- 
blue eyes and frizzy red hair, the effect of which was inde- 
scribably frightful. Both here and at Ibrim there are 
many of these " fair" families, who claim to be descended 
from Bosnian fathers stationed in Nubia at the time of the 
conquest of Sultan Selim in a. d. 1517 They are 
immensely proud of their alien blood and think them- 
selves quite beautiful. 

All hands being safe on board, we pushed off at once, 
leaving about a couple of hundred disconsolate dealers on 
the banki A long-drawn howl of disappointment followed 
in our wake. Those who had sold, and those who had not 
sold, were alike wronged, ruined, and betrayed. One 
woman tore wildly along the bank, shrieking and beating 
her breast. Foremost among the sellers, she had parted 
from her gold brow-pendant for a good price ; but was in- 
consolable now for the loss of it. 

It often happened that those who had been most eager 


to trade were readiest to repent of their bargains. Even 
so, however, their cupidity outweighed their love of finery. 
Moved once or twice by the lamentations of some dark 
damsel who had sold her necklace at a handsome profit, we 
offered to annul the purchase. But it invariably proved 
that, despite her tears, she preferred to keep the money. 

The palms of Derr and of the rich district 'beyond were 
the finest we saw throughout the journey. Straight and 
strong aud magnificently plumed, they rose to an average 
height of seventy or eighty feet. These superb planta- 
tions supply all Egypt with saplings and contribute a 
heavy tax to the revenue. The fruit, sun-dried and 
shriveled, is also sent northward in large quantities. 

The trees are cultivated with strenuous industry by the 
natives and owe as much of their perfection to laborious 
irrigation as to climate. The foot of each separate palm 
is surrounded by a circular trench, into which the water is 
conducted by a small channel about fourteen inches in 
width. Every palm-grove stands in a network of these 
artificial runlets. The reservoir from which they are sup- 
plied is filled by means of a sakkieh, or water-wheel — a 
primitive and picturesque machine consisting of two 
wheels, the one set vertically to the river and slung with a 
chain of pots; the other a horizontal cog turned sometimes 
by a camel, but more frequently in Nubia by a buffalo. 
The pots (which go down empty, dip under the water, and 
come up full) feed a sloping trough which in some places 
supplies a reservoir, and in others communicates at once 
with the irrigating channels. These sakkiehs are kept 
perpetually going, and are set so close just above Derr, 
that the writer counted a line of fifteen within the space of 
a single mile. There were probably quite as many on 
the opposite bank. 

The sakkiehs creak atrociously ; and their creaking 
ranges over an unlimited gamut. From morn till dewy 
eve, from dewy eve till morn, they squeak, they squeal, 
they grind, they groan, they croak. Heard after dark, 
sakkieh answering to sakkieh, their melancholy chorus 
makes night hideous. To sleep through it is impossible. 
Being obliged to moor a few miles beyond Derr and having 
lain awake half the night, we offered a sakkieh-driver a 
couple of dollars if he would let his wheel rest till morn- 
ing. But time and water are more precious than even 


dollars at this season; and the man refused. All we could 
do, therefore, was to punt into the middle of the river and 
lie off at a point as nearly as possible equidistant from 
our two nearest enemies. 

The native dearly loves the tree which costs him so much 
labor, and thinks it the chef-d'oeuvre of creation. When 
Allah made the first man, says an Arab legend, he found 
he had a little clay to spare ; so with that he made the 
palm. And to the poor Nubian, at all events, the gifts of 
the palm are almost divine ; supplying food for his chil- 
dren, thatch for his hovel, timber for his water-wheel, 
ropes, matting, cups, bowls and even the strong drink for- 
bidden by the prophet. The date-wine is yellowish-white, 
like whisky. It is not a wine, however, but a spirit; 
coarse, fiery, and unpalatable. 

Certain trees — as for instance the perky little pine of the 
German wald — are apt to become monotonous; but one 
never wearies of the palm. Whether taken singly or in 
masses, it is always graceful, always suggestive. To the 
sketcher on the Nile it is simply invaluable. It breaks the 
long parallels of river and bank and composes with the 
stern lines of Egyptian architecture as no other tree in the 
world could do. 

" Subjects, indeed!" said once upon a time an eminent 
artist to the present writer ; "fiddlesticks about subjects! 
Your true painter can make a picture out of a post and a 

Substitute a palm, however, for a post; combine it with 
anything that comes first — a camel, a shadvif, a woman 
with a water-jar upon her head — and your picture stands 
before you ready made. 

Nothing more surprised me at first than the color of the 
palm-frond, which painters of eastern landscape are wont 
to depict of a hard bluish tint, like the color of a yucca 
leaf. Its true shade is a tender, bloomy, sea-green gray; 
difficult enough to match, but in most exquisite harmony 
with the glow of the sky and the gold of the desert. 

The palm-groves kept us company for many a mile, 
backed on the Arabian side by long level ranges of sand- 
stone cliffs, horizontally stratified, like those of the The- 
baid. We now scarcely ever saw a village — only palms and 
sakkiehs and sand-banks in the river. The villages were 
there, but invisible, being built on the verge of the desert. 


Arable land is too valuable in Nubia for either the living to 
dwell upon it or the dead to be buried in it. 

At Ibrim — a sort of ruined Ehrenbreitstein on the top 
of a grand precipice overhanging the river — we touched for 
only a few minutes, in order to buy a very small shaggy 
sheep which bad been brought down to the landing-place 
for sale. But for the breeze that happened just then to 
be blowing we should have liked to climb the rock and see 
the view and the ruins — which are part modern, part 
Turkish, part Roman, and little, if at all, Egyptian. 

There are also some sculptured and painted grottoes to 
be seen in the southern face of the mountain. They are, 
however, too difficult of access to be attempted by ladies. 
Alfred, who went ashore after quail, was drawn up to them 
by ropes, but found them to much defaced as to be 
scarcely worth the trouble of a visit. 

We were now only thirty-four miles from Abou Simbel; 
but making slow progress and impatiently counting every 
foot of the way. The heat at times was great, frequent 
and fitful spells of Khamsin wind alternating with a hot 
calm that tried the trackers sorely. Still Ave pushed for- 
ward, a few miles at a time, till by and by the flat-topped 
cliffs dropped out of sight and were again succeeded by vol- 
canic peaks, some of which looked loftier than any of 
those about Dakkeh or Korosko. 

Then the palms ceased and the belt of cultivated land 
narrowed to a thread of green between the rocks and the 
water's edge; and at last there came an evening when we 
only wanted breeze enough to double two or three more 
bends in the river. 

" Is it to be Abou Simbel to-night?" we asked for the 
twentieth time before going down to dinner. 

To which Rei's Hassan replied: " Aivvab" ("certainly"). 

But the pilot shook his head and added: " Bukra" (" to- 
morrow "). 

When we came up again the moon had risen but the 
breeze had dropped. Still we moved, impelled by a breath 
so faint that one could scarcely feel it. Presently even 
this failed. The sail collapsed; the pilot steered for the 
bank; the captain gave word to go aloft — when a sudden 
puff from the north changed our fortunes and sent us but 
again with a well-filled sail into the middle of the river. 

None of us, I think, will be likely to forget the sustained 


excitement of the next three hours. As the moon climbed 
higher alight more mysterious and unreal than the light 
of day filled and overflowed the wide expanse of river and 
desert. We could see the mountains of Abou Simbel stand- 
ing, as it seemed, across our path, in the far distance — a 
lower one first; then a larger; then a series of receding 
heights, all close together, yet all distinctly separate. 

That large one — the mountain of the great temple — held 
us like a spell. For a long time it looked a mere mountain 
like the rest. By and by, however, we fancied we detected 
a something — a shadow — such a shadow as might be cast 
by a gigantic buttress. Next appeared a black speck, no 
bigger than a port-hole. We knew that this black speck 
must be the doorway. We knew that the great statues 
were there, though not yet visible, and that we must soon 
see them. 

For our sailors, meanwhile, there was the excitement of 
a chase. The Bagstones and three other dahabeeyahs 
were coming up behind us in the path of the moonlight. 
Their galley fires glowed like beacons on the water; the 
nearest about a mile away, the last a spark in the distance. 
We were not in the mood to care much for racing to-night, 
but we were anxious to keep our lead and be first at the 
mooring place. 

To run upon a sand-bank at such a moment was like 
being plunged suddenly into cold water. Our sail flapped 
furiously. The men rushed to the pun ting-poles. Four 
jumped overboard and shoved with all the might of their 
shoulders. By the time we got off, however, the other boats 
had crept up half a mile nearer, and we had hard work to 
keep them from pressing closer on our heels. 

At length the last corner was rounded and the great 
temple stood straight before us. The facade, sunk in the 
mountain side like a huge picture in a mighty frame, was 
now quite plain to see. The black speck was no longer a 
port-hole, but a lofty doorway. 

Last of all, though it was night, and they were still not 
much less than a mile away, the four colossi came out, 
ghostlike, vague and shadowy, in the enchanted moon- 
light. Even as we watched them they seemed to grow, to 
dilate, to be moving toward us out of the silvery distance. 

It was drawing on toward midnight when the Philai 
at length ran in close under the great temple. Content 


with what they had seen from the river the rest of the 
party then went soberly to bed; but the painter and the writer 
had no patience to wait till morning. Almost before the 
mooring- rope could be made fast they had jumped ashore 
and began climbing the bank. 

They went and stood at the feet of the colossi, and on 
the threshold of that vast portal beyond which was dark- 
ness. The great statues towered above their heads. The 
river glittered like steel in the far distance. There was a 
keen silence in the air ; and toward the east the Southern 
Cross was rising. To the strangers who stood talking- 
there with bated breath, the time, the place, even the 
sound of their own voices, seemed unreal. They felt as if 
the whole scene must fade with the moonlight, and vanish 
before morning. 




The central figure of Egyptian history has always been, 
probably always will be, Rameses II. He holds this place 
partly by right, partly by accident. He was born to great- 
ness; he achieved greatness ; and he had borrowed great- 
ness thrust upon him. It was bis singular destiny not 
only to be made a posthumous usurper of glory, but to be 
forgotten by his own name and remembered in a variety of 
aliases. As Sesoosis, as Osymandias, as Sesostris, he 
became credited in course of time with all the deeds of all 
the heroes of the new empire, beginning with Thothmes III, 
who preceded him by three hundred years, and ending with 
Sheshonk, the captor of Jerusalem, who lived four centuries 
after him. Modern science, however, has repaired this 
injustice; and, while disclosing the long-lost names of a 
brilliant succession of sovereigns, has enabled us to ascribe 
to each the honors which are his due. We know now that 
some of these were greater conquerors than Rameses II. 
We suspect that some were better rulers. Yet the popu- 
lar hero keeps his ground. What he has lost by interpre- 
tation on the one hand, he has gained by interpretation on 
the other; and the beau sabreur of the " Third SallierPapy- 
rus " remains to this day the representative Pharaoh of a 
line of monarchs whose history covers a space of fifty cent- 
uries, and whose frontiers reached at one time from 
Mesopotamia to the ends of the Soudan. 

The interest that one takes in Rameses II begins at 
Memphis and goes on increasing all the way up the river. 
It is a purely living, a purely personal interest; such as one 
feels in Athens for Pericles, or in Florence for Lorenzo the 
Magnificent. Other Pharaohs but languidly affect the 
imagination. Thothmes and Amenhotep are to us as Da- 
rius or Artaxerxes — shadows that come and go in the dis- 
tance. But with he second Rameses we are on terms of re- 




spectful intimacy. We seem to know the man — to feel his 
presence — to hear his name in the air. His features are as 
familiar to us as those of Henry VIII or Louis XIV. 
His cartouches meet us at every turn. Even to those who 
do not read the hieroglyphic character, those well-known 
signs convey by sheer force of association the name and style 
of Rameses, beloved of Amen. 

This being so, the traveler is 
ill-equipped who goes through 
Egypt without something more 
than a mere guide-book knowl- 
edge of Rameses II. He is, 
as it were, content to read the 
argument and miss the poem. 
In the desolation of Memphis, 
in the shattered splendor of 
Thebes, he sees only the ordi- 
nary pathos of ordinary ruins. 
As for Abou Simbel, the most 
stupendous historical record 
ever transmitted from the past to the present, it tells him a 
but half-intelligible story. Holding to the merest thread of 
explanation, he wanders from hall to hall, lacking alto- 
gether that potent charm of foregone association which no 
Murray can furnish. Your average Frenchman, straying 
helplessly through Westminister Abbey under the conduct 
of the verger, has about as vague a conception of the his- 
torical import of the things he sees. 

What is true of the traveler is equally true of those who 
take the Nile vicariously " in connection with Mudie." If 
they are to understand any description of Abou Simbel, 
they must first know something about Rameses II. Let us 
then, while the Phila? lies moored in the shadow of the rock 
of Abshek,* review, as summarily as may be, the leading 
facts of this important reign; such facts, that is to say, as 
are recorded in inscriptions, papyri, and other contempo- 
rary monuments. 

Rameses Ilf was the son of Seti I, the second Pharaoh 

* Abshek: The hieroglyphic name of Abou Simbel. Gr. Ahoccis. 

f In the present state of Egyptian chronology it is hazardous to 
assign even an approximate date to events which happened before 
the conquest of Canibyses. The Egyptians, in fact, had no chronology 


of the nineteenth dynasty and of a certain Princess Tuaa, 
described on the monuments as "royal wife, royal 
mother, and heiress and sharer of the thorne." She is 
supposed to have been of the ancient royal line of the 
preceding dynasty, and so to have had, perhaps, a better 
right than her husband to the double crown of Egypt. 
Through her, at all events, Eameses II seems to have 
been in some sense born a king* equal in rank, if not in 
power, with his father ; his rights, moreover, were 
fully recognized by Seti, who accorded him royal and 
divine honors from the hour of his birth, or, in 
the language of the Egyptian historians, while he 
was " yet in the egg." The great dedicatory in- 
scription of the Temple of Osiris at Abydos,f relates how 
his father took the royal child in his arms, when he was 
yet little more than an infant, showed him to the people as 
their king, and caused him to be invested by the great 
officers of the palace with the double crown of the two 
lands. The same inscription states that he was a general 
from his birth, and that as a nursling he "commanded 

in the strict sense of the word. Being without any fixed point of 
departure, such as the birth of Christ, they counted the events of 
each reign from the accession of the sovereign. Under such a sys- 
tem error and confusion were inevitable. To say when Rameses II 
was born and when he died is impossible. The very century in 
which he nourished is uncertain. Mariette, taking the historical 
lists of Manetho for his basis, supposes the nineteenth dynasty to 
have occupied the interval comprised within B, C. 1462 and 1288; 
according to which computation (allowing fifty-seven years for the 
reigns of Rameses I and Seti I) the reign of Rameses II would date 
from b. c. 1405. Brugsch gives him from b. c. 1407 to b. c. 1341; 
and Lepsius places his reign in the sixty- six years lying between 
b. c. 1388 and b. c. 1322; these calculations being both made before 
the discovery of the Stella of Abydos. Bunsen dates his accession 
from B. c. 1352. Between the highest and the lowest of these cal- 
culations there is, as shown by the following table, a difference of 
fifty-five years: 

Rameses II began to reign b. c. 

g> f Brugsch .... 1407 
'■B „ )' Mariette .... 1405 
| 2 1 Lepsius .... 1388 

J Bunsen .... 1352 

* See chap, viii, foot note, p. 126. 

t See " Essai sur l'lnscription Dt'dicatoire du Temple d'Abydos et 
la Jeunesse de Sesotris." — G. Maspero, Paris, 1867. 


the body-guard and the brigade of chariot-fighters "; but 
these titles must, of course, have been purely honorary. At 
twelve years of age he was formally associated with his 
father upon the throne, and by the gradual retirement of 
Seti I from the cares of active government the co-royalty 
of Rameses became, in the course of the next ten or fifteen 
years, an undivided responsibility. He was probably 
about thirty when his father died; and it is from this time 
that the years of his reign are dated. In other words, 
Rameses II, in his official records, counts only from the 
period of his sole reign, and the year of the death of Seti 
is the "year one" of the monumental inscriptions of his 
son and successor. In the second, fourth, and fifth years 
of his monarchy, he personally conducted campaigns in 
Syria, more than one of the victories then achieved being 
commemorated on the rock-cut tablets of Nahr-el-Kelb, 
near Beyriit; and that he was by this time recognized as a 
mighty warrior is shown by the stela of Dakkeh, which 
dates from the " third year," and celebrates him as terrible 
in battle — " the bull powerful against Ethiopia, the griffin 
furious against the negroes, whose grip has put the mount- 
aineers to flight." The events of the campaign of his 
" fifth year" (undertaken in order to reduce to obedience 
the revolted tribes of Syria and Mesopotamia) are immor- 
talized in the poem of Pentaur.* It was on this occasion 
that he fought his famous single-handed fight against 
overwhelming odds, in the sight of both armies under the 
walls of Kadesh. Three years later he carried fire and 
sword into the land of Canaan, and in his eleventh year, 
according to inscriptions yet extant upon the ruined 
pylons of the Ramesseum at Thebes, he took, among other 
strong places on sea and shore, the fortresses of Ascalon 
and Jerusalem. 

The next important record transports us to the twenty- 
first year of his reign. Ten years have now gone by since 
the fall of Jerusalem, during which time a fluctuating 
frontier warfare has probably been carried on, to the 
exhaustion of both armies. Khetasira, Prince of Kheta,f 
sues for peace. An elaborate treaty is thereupon framed, 
whereby the said prince and " Rameses, chief of rulers, 

* See chap, viii, p. 125. 

f i. e. Prince of the Hittites; the Kheta heiiig now identified with 
that people. 


who fixes his frontiers where he pleases," pledge them- 
selves to a strict offensive and defensive alliance, and to 
the maintenance of good-will and brotherhood forever. 
This treaty, we are told, was engraved for the Khetan. 
prince " upon a tablet of silver adorned with the likeness 
of the figure of Sutekh, the great ruler of Heaven"; while 
for Rameses Mer-Amen it was graven on a wall adjoining 
the great hall at Karnak,* where it remains to this day. 

According to the last clause of this curious document, 
the contracting parties enter also into an agreement to 
deliver up to each other the political fugitives of both 
countries ; providing at the same time for the personal 
safety of the offenders. " Whosoever shall be so delivered 
up," says the treaty, " himself, his wives, his children, 
let him not be smitten to death ; moreover, let him not 
suffer in his eyes, in his mouth, in his feet; moreover, let 
not any crime be set up against him."f This is the 
earliest instance of an extradition treaty upon record ; and 
it is chiefly remarkable as an illustration of the clemency 
with which international law was at that time administered. 

Finally the convention between the sovereigns is placed 
under the joint protection of the gods of both countries: 
" Sutekh of Kheta, Amen of Egypt and all the thousand 
gods; the gods, male and female; the gods of the hills, of 
the rivers, of the great sea, of the winds and the clouds, 
of the land of Kheta and of the land of Egypt." 

The peace now concluded would seem to have remained 
unbroken throughout the rest of the long reign of Rameses 
II. We hear, at all events, of no more wars; and we find 
the king married presently to a Khetan princess, who, in 
deference to the gods of her adopted country, takes the 

* This invaluable record is sculptured on a piece of wall built out, 
apparently, for tbe purpose, at right angles to tbe south wall of the 
Hypostyle Hall at Karnak. The treaty faces to the west, and is 
situated about half-way between the famous bas-relief of Sheshonk 
and his captives and the Karnak version of the poem of Pentaur. 
The former lies to the west of the southern portal; the latter to the 
east. The wall of the treaty juts out about sixty feet to the east 
of the portal. This south wall and its adjunct, a length of about 
two hundred feet in all, is perhaps the most precious and interesting 
piece of sculptured surface in the world. 

f See "Treaty of Peace Between Rameses II and the Hittites," 
translated by C. W. Goodwin, M. A. " Records of the Past," vol. iv, 
p. 25. 


official name of Ma-at-iri-neferu-Ra, or " Contemplating 
the beauties of Ra." The names of two other queens — 
Nefer-t-ari and Ast-nefert — are also found upon the monu- 

These three were probably the only legitimate wives of 
Rameses II, though lie must also have been the lord of an 
extensive hareem. His family, at all events, as recorded 
upon the walls of the Temple at Wady Sabooah, amounted 
to no less than one hundred and seventy children, of 
whom one hundred and eleven were princes. This may 
have been a small family for a great king three thousand 
years ago. It was but the other day, comparatively speak- 
ing, that Lepsius saw and talked with old Hasan, Kashef 
of Derr — the same petty ruler who gave so much trouble to 
Belzoni, Burckhardt, and other early travelers — and he, 
like a patriarch of old, had in his day been the husband of 
sixty-four wives and the father of something like two 
hundred children. 

For forty-six years after the making of the Khetan 
treaty, Rameses the Great lived at peace with his neigh- 
bors and tributaries. The evening of his life was long and 
splendid. It became his passion and his pride to found 
new cities, to raise dikes, to dig canals, to build fortresses, 
to multiply statues, obelisks, and inscriptions, and to 
erect the most gorgeous and costly temples in which man 
ever worshiped. To the monuments founded by his pre- 
decessors he made additions so magnificent that they 
dwarfed the designs they were intended to complete. He 
caused artesian wells to be pierced in the stony bed of the 
desert. He carried on the canal begun by his father and 
opened a water-way between the Mediterranean and the 
Red Sea.* No enterprise was too difficult, no project too 

* Since tliis book was written, a f urther study of the subject lias 
led me to conjecture that not Seti I, but Queen Hatsbepsu (Hatasu) 
of the eighteenth dynasty, was the actual originator of the canal 
which connected the Nile with the Red Sea. The inscriptions 
engraved upon the walls of her great temple at Dayr-el-Bahari 
expressly state that her squadron sailed from Thebes to the land of 
Punt and returned from Punt to Thebes, laden with the products of 
that mysterious country which Mariette and Maspero have con- 
clusively shown to have been situated on the Somali coast-line 
between Bab-el-Mandeb and Cape Guardafui. Unless, therefore, 
some water-way existed at that time between the Nile and the Eed 
Sea, it follows that Queen Hatshepsu's squadron of discovery must 
have sailed northward from Thebes, descended the Nile to one of Us, 


vast, for his ambition. "As a child/' says the stela of 
Dakkeh, " he superintended the public works and his 
hands laid their foundations.''' As a man, he became the 
supreme builder. Of his gigantic structures, only certain 
colossal fragments have survived the ravages of time; yet 
those fragments are the wonder of the world. 

To estimate the cost at which these things were done is 
now impossible. Every temple, every palace, represented a 
hecatomb of human lives. Slaves from Ethiopia, cap- 
tives taken in war, Syrian immigrants settled in the delta, 
were alike pressed into the service of the state. We know 
how the Hebrews suffered, and to what extremity of 
despair they were reduced by the tasks imposed upon 
them. Yet even the Hebrews were less cruelly used than 
some who were kidnaped beyond the frontiers. Torn 
from their homes, without hope of return, driven in herds 
to the mines, the quarries, and the brick-fields, these hap- 
less victims were so dealt with that not even the chances 
of desertion were open to them. The negroes from the 
south were systematically drafted to the north; the Asiatic 
captives were transported to Ethiopia. Those who labored 

mouths, traversed the whole length of the Mediterranean sea, gone 
out through the pillars of Hercules, doubled the Cape of Good Hope, 
and arrived at the Somali coast by way of the Mozambique Channel 
and the shores of Zanzibar. In other words, the Egyptian galleys 
would twice have made the almost complete circuit of the African 
continent. This is obviously an untenable hypothesis ; and there 
remains no alternative route except that of a canal, or chain of 
canals, connecting the Nile with the Red Sea. The old Wady 
Tumilat canal has hitherto been universally ascribed to Seti I, for no 
other reason than that a canal leading from the Nile to the ocean is 
represented on a bas-relief of his reign on the north outer wall of the 
great temple of Karnak ; but this canal may undoubtedly have been 
made under the preceding dynasty, and it is not only probable, but 
most likely, that the great woman-Pbaraoh, who first conceived the 
notion of venturing her ships upon an unknown sea, may also have 
organized the channel of communication by which those ships went 
forth. According to the second edition of Sir J. W. Dawson's 
"Egypt and Syria," the recent surveys conducted by Lieut. -Col. 
A.rdagh, Maj. Spaight and Lieut. Burton, all of the royal engineers, 
' render it certain that this valley [i. e. the Wady Tumilat] once 
carried a branch up the Nile which discharged its waters into the Red 
Sea" (see chap. iii. p. 55) ; and in such case, if that branch were not 
already navigable, Queen Hatshepsu would only have needed to 
canalize it, which is what she probably did. [Note to second 


underground were goaded on without rest or respite, till 
they fell down in the mines and died. 

That Rameses II was the Pharaoh of the captivity,* and 
that Meneptah, his son and successor, was the Pharaoh of 
the exodus,* are now among the accepted presumptions 
of Egyptological science. The Bible and the monuments 
confirm each other upon these points, while both are again 
corroborated by the results of recent geographical and 
philological research. The " treasure-cities Pithom and 
Raamses" which the Israelites built for Pharaoh with 
bricks of their own making, are the Pa-Tum and Pa- 
Rameses, of the inscriptions, and both have recently been 
identified by M. Naville, in the course of his excavations 
conducted in 1883 and 1886 for the Egypt Exploration 

The discovery of Pithom, the ancient biblical " treasure- 

* " Les circonstances de l'histoire hebra'ique s'appliquent ici d'une 
rnaniere on ne pent plus satisfaisante. Les Hebreux opprimes batis- 
saient une ville da nom de Ramses. Ce recit ne peut done s'appliquer 
qu'a l'epoque ou la famille de Ramses etait sur le trdne. Mo'ise, con- 
traint de fuir la colere du roi.s apres le meurtre d'un Egyptien, subit 
un long exil, parceque le roi ne mourut qu'apres un temps fort long; 
Ramses II regna en effet plus de 67 ans. Aussitot apres le retour de 
Mo'ise cornmenca la lutte qui se termina par le celebre passage de la 
Mer Rouge. Cet eveneinent eut done lieu sous le fils de Ramses II, 
ou tout au plus tard pendant l'epoque de troubles quit suivit son 
regne. Ajoutons que la rapidite des derniers eveneruents ne permet 
pas de supposer que le roi eut sa residence a Thebes dans cet instant. 
Or, Merenptah a precisement laiss<' dans la Basse-Egypte, et speciale- 
ment a, Tanis, des preuves importantes de son sejour." — De Rouge, 
" Notice des Monuments Egyptiennes du Rez de Chaussee du Musee 
du Louvre," Paris, 1857, p. 22. 

"II est impossible d'attribuer ni a Meneptah I, ni a Seti II, ni a 
Siptah, ni a Amonmeses, un regne meme de vingt annees; a plus 
forte raison de cinquante ou soixante Seal le regne de Ramses II rem- 
plit les conditions indispensables. Lors meme que nous ne saurions 
pas que ce souverain a occupe les Hebreux a la construction de la ville 
de Ramses, nous serions dans 1'impossibilite de placer Mo'ise a une 
autre epoque, a moins de faire table rase des renseignements bib- 
liques." — " Recherches pour servir ti l'Histoire de la XIX dynastie:" 
F. Chabas, Paris, 1873, p. 148. 

f The Bible narrative, it has often deen observed, invariably desig- 
nates the king by this title, than which none, unfortunately, can be 
more vague for purposes of identification. "Plus generalement," 
says Brugsch, writing of the royal titles, " sa personne se cache sous 
une serie d'expressions qui toutes ont le sens de la 'grande maison ' 
ou du 'grand palais,' quelquefois au duel, des \i> uxgrandes maisons,' 
par rapport a la division de l'Egypte en deux parties. C'est du title 


city" of the first chapter of Exodus, has probably attracted 
more public attention and been more widely discussed by 
European savants than any archaeological event since the 
discovery of Nineveh. It was in February, 1883, that M. 
Naville opened the well-known mound of Tel-el-Mask- 
hutah, on the south bank of the new sweet-water canal in 
the "Wady Tumilat, and there discovered the founda- 
tions and other remains of a fortified city of the kind 
known in Egyptian as a bekhen, or store-fort. This 
bekhcn, which was surrounded by a wall thirty feet in 
thickness, proved to be about twelve acres in extent. In 
one corner of the inclosure were found the ruins of a temple 
built by Barneses II. The rest of the area consisted of a 
labyrinth of subterraneous rectangular cellars, or store- 
chambers, constructed of sun-dried bricks of large size and 
divided by walls varying from eight to ten feet in thickness. 
In the ruins of the temple were discovered several statues 
more or less broken, a colossal hawk inscribed with the 
royal ovals of Rameses II, and other works of art dating 
from the reigns of Osorkon II, Nectanebo and Ptolemy 
Philadelphus. The hieroglyphic legends engraved upon 
the statues established the true value of the discovery by 
giving both the name of the city and the name of the dis- 
trict in which the city was situated; the first being Pa-Tum 
(Pithom), the "Abode of Turn," and the second being 
Thuku-t (Succoth) ; so identifying "Pa-Turn, in the dis- 
trict of Thuku-t," with Pithom, the treasure-city built by 
the forced labor of the Hebrews and Succoth, the region 
in which they made their first halt on going forth from the 
land of bondage. Even the bricks with which the great 
wall and the walls of the store-chambers are built bear 

tres frequent Per-aa, ' la grande maison,' 'la haute porte,' qu'on a 
heiireusement derive le noni biblique Pharao donne aux rois 
d'Egypte." — " Histoire d'Egypte," Brugsch, second edition, Part I, p. 
85; Leipzig, 1875. 

This probably is the only title under which it was permissible for 
the plebeian class to speak or write of the sovereign. It can scarcely 
have escaped Herr Brugsch's notice that we even find it literally 
translated in Genesis, 1. 4, wbere it is said that " when the days of 
his mourning were past, Joseph spake unto tin house of Pharaoh, 
saying: "If now I have found grace in your eyes,' " etc. etc. If Moses, 
however, had but once recorded the cartouche name of either of his 
three Pharaohs, archaeologists and commentators would have been 
spared a great deal of trouble. 


eloquent testimony to the toil of the suffering colonists 
and confirm in its minutest details the record of their 
oppression; some being duly kneaded with straw; others, 
when the straw was no longer forthcoming, being mixed 
with the leafage of a reed common to the marsh lands of 
the delta; and the remainder, when even this substitute 
ran short, being literally "'bricks without straw," molded 
of mere clay crudely dried in the sun. The researches of 
M. Naville further showed that the temple to Turn, 
founded by Raineses II, was restored, or rebuilt, by Osor- 
kon II, of the twenty-second dynasty ; while at a still 
higher level were discovered the remains of a Roman 
fortress. That Pithom was still an important place in the 
time of the Ptolemies is proved by a large and historically im- 
portant tablet found by M. Naville in one of the store-cham- 
bers, where it had been thrown in with other sculptures and 
rubbish of various kinds. This tablet records repairs done to 
the canal, an expedition to Ethiopia and the foundation of 
the city of Arsinoe. Not less important from a geograph- 
ical point of view was the finding of a Roman milestone 
which identifies Pithom with Hero (Heroopolis), where, 
according to the Septuagint, Joseph went forth to meet 
Jacob. This milestone gives nine Roman miles as the dis- 
tance from Heroopolis to Clysma. A very curious manu- 
script lately discovered by Sig. Gamurrini in the library 
of Arezzo, shows that even so late as the fourth century of 
the Christian era this ancient walled inclosure — the camp, 
or "Ero Castra," of the Roman period, the " Pithom" of 
the Bible — was still known to pious pilgrims as "the 
Pithom built by the children of Israel ;" that the adjoin- 
ing town, external to the camp, at that time established 
within the old Pithom boundaries, was known as "Heroo- 
polis ;" and that the town of Raineses was distant from 
Pithom about twenty Roman miles.* 

*This remarkable manuscript relates the journey made by a female 
pilgrim of French birth, circa a. d. 370, to Egypt, Mesopotamia and 
the holy land. The manuscript is copied from an older original and 
dates from the tenth or eleventh century. Much of the work is lost, 
but those parts are yet perfect which describe the pilgrim's progress 
through Goshen to Tanis and thence to Jerusalem, Edessa and the 
Haran. Of Pithom it is said: " Pithona etiam ci vitas quarn cediflca- 
verunt filii Israel ostensa est nubis in ipso itinere ; in eo tamen loco 
ubi jam fines Egypti intravimus, religentes jam terras Saracenorum. 
Nam et ipsud nunc Pithona castrum est, Heroun autero civitas quae 


As regards Pa-Rameses, the other "treasure-city" of 
Exodus, it is coujectu rally, but not positively, identified 
by M. Naville with the mound of Saft-el-Henneh, the 
scene of his explorations in 1886. That Saft-el-IIenneh 
was identical with " Kes," or Goshen, the capital town of 
the " Land of Goshen," has been unequivocally demon- 
strated by the discoverer ; and that it was also known in 
the time of Rameses II as "Pa-Rameses" is shown to be 
highly probable.* There are remains of a temple built of 
black basalt, with pillars, fragments of statues and the like, 
all inscribed with the cartouches of Rameses II ; and the 
distance from Pithom is just twenty Roman miles. 

It was from Pa-Rameses that Rameses II set out with his 
army to attack the confederate princes of Asia Minor then 
lying in ambush near Kadesh ; f and it was hither that 
he returned in triumph after the great victory. A con- 
temporary letter written by one Panbesa, a scribe, narrates 
in glowing terms the beauty and abundance of the royal 
city, and tells how the damsels stood at their doors in holi- 
day apparel, with nosegays in their hands and sweet oil 
upon their locks, " on the day of the arrival of the war- 
god of the world." This letter is in the British Museum. J 

Other letters written during the reign of Rameses II 
have by some been supposed to make direct mention of 
the Israelites. 

"I have obeyed the orders of my master," writes the 
scribe Kauiser to his superior Bak-en-Ptah, "being bidden 

fuit illo teinpere, id est ubi occurit Joseph patri suo venienti, sicut 
scriptum est in libro Genesis nunc est conies sed grandis quod nos 
dicinius vicus . . . nam ipse vicus nunc appellator Hero." See 
a letter on " Pithom- Heroopolis " communicated to " The Academy " 
by M. Naville, March 22, 1884. See also M. Naville's memoir, 
entitled '-The Store-City of Pithom and the Route of the Exodus" 
(third edition) ; published by order of the committee of the Egypt 
Exploration Fund, 1888. 

*See M. Naville's memoir, entitled "Goshen and the Shrine of 
Saft-el-Henneh," published by order of the committee of the Egypt 
Exploration Fund, 1887. 

f Kadesh, otherwise Katesh or Kades. A town on the Orontes. 
See a paper entitled " The Campaign of Ramesis II in His Fifth Year 
Against Kadesh on the Orontes," by the Rev. G. H. Tomkins, in the 
"Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archaeology," 1881, 1882; 
also in the " Transactions" of the society, vol. viii. 

% Anastasi Papyri, No. Ill, Brit. Mus. 


to serve out the rations to the soldiers, and also to the 
Aperiu [Hebrews?], who quarry stone for the palace of 
King Rameses Mer-Amen." A si miliar document written 
by a scribe named Keniamon and couched in almost the 
same words shows these Aperiu on another occasion to 
have been quarrying for a building on the southern side of 
Memphis; in which case Turra would be the scene of their 

These invaluable letters, written on papyrus in the hie- 
ratic character, are in good preservation. They were 
found in the ruins of Memphis and now form part of the 
treasures of the Museum of Leyden.* They bring home 
to us with startling nearness the events and actors of the 
Bible narrative. We see the toilers at their task and the 
overseers reporting them to the directors of public works. 
They extract from the quarry those huge blocks which are 
our wonder to this day. Harnessed to rude sledges, they 
drag them to the river side and embark them for transport 

*See "Melanges Egyptologiques," by F. Chabas, 1 Serie, 1862. 
There has been much discussion among Egyptologists on the subject 
of M. Chabas' identification of the Hebrews. The name by which 
they are mentioned in the papyri here quoted, as well as in an inscrip- 
tion in the quarries of Hamamat, is Aperi-u. A learned critic in the 
"Revue Areheologique" (vol. v, 2d series. 1862) writes as follows : 
'•' La decouverte du nom des Hebreux dans les hieroglyphes serait un 
fait de la derniere importance; mais comine aucun autre point histo- 
rique n'offre peut-etre une pareille seduction, il faut aussi se metier 
des illusions avec un soin meticuleux. La confusion des sons R et 
L dans la langue Egyptienne, et le voisinage des articulations B et P 
nuisent un peu, dans le cas particular, a la rigueur des conclusions 
quon peut tirer de la transcription. Neanmoins, il y a lieu de prendre 
en consideration ce fait que les Aperiu. dans les trois documents qui 
nous parlent d'eux, sont niontres employes a des travaux de meme 
espece que ceux auxquels, selon l'Ecriture, les Hebreux furent assu- 
jettis par les Egyptiens. La circonstance que les papyrus mention- 
nant ce nom ont ete trouves a Memphis, plaide encore en faveur de 
l'assimilation proposee — decouverte importante qu'il est a desirer de 
voir confirmee dar d'autres monuments." It should be added that 
the Aperiu also appear in the inscription of Thothmes III at Karnak 
and were supposed by Mariette to be the people of Ephon. It is, 
however, to be noted" that the inscriptions mention two tribes of 
Aperiu — a greater and a lesser, or an upper and a lower tribe. This 
might perhaps consist with the establishment of Hebrew settlers in 
the delta and others in the neighborhood of Memphis. The Aperiu, 
according to other inscriptions, appear to have been horsemen, or 
horse-trainers, which certainly tells against the probability of their 
identity with the Hebrews. 


to the opposite bank.* Some are so large and so heavy 
that it takes a month to get them clown from the mountain 
to the landing-place. f Other laborers are elsewhere making 
bricks, digging canals, helping to build the great wall 
which reached from Pelusium to Heliopolis, and strengthen- 
ing the defenses not only of Pithom and Eameses but of 
all the cities and forts between the lied Sea and the Medi- 
terranean. Their lot is hard; but not harder than the lot 
of other workmen. They are well fed. They intermarry. 
They increase and multiply. The season of their great 
oppression is not yet come. They make bricks, it is true, 
and those who are so employed must supply a certain num- 
ber daily;J but the straw is'not yet withheld, and the task, 
though perhaps excessive, is not impossible. For we are 
here on the reign of Barneses II, and the time when 
Meneptah shall succeed him is yet far distant. It is not 
till the king dies that the children of Israel sigh, "by 
reason of the bondage." 

There are in the British Museum, the Louvre, and the 
Bibliotheque Natiomde. some much older papyri than 
these two letters of the Leyden collection — some as old, 
indeed, as the time of Joseph, but none, perhaps, of such 
peculiar interest, In these, the scribes Kauiser and Keni- 
amon seem still to live and speak. What would we not 
give for a few more of their letters! These men knew 
Memphis in its glory and had looked upon the face of 
Eameses the Great. They might even have seen Moses in 
his youth while yet he lived under the protection of his 
adopted mother, a prince among princes. Kauiser and 
Keniamon lived, and died, and were mummied between 
three and four thousand years ago; yet these frail frag- 
ments of papyrus have survived the wreck of ages, and 

* See the famous wall-painting of the Colossus on the Sledge 
engraved in Sir (J. Wilkinson's "Ancient Egyptians;" frontispiece 
to vol. ii, ed. 1871. 

f In a letter written by a priest who lived during this reign (Rame- 
ses II), we find an interesting account of the disadvantages and hard- 
ships attending various trades and pursuits, as opposed to the ease 
and dignity of the sacerdotal office. Of the mason he says : "It is 
the climax of his misery to have to remove a block of ten cubits bv 
six, a block which it takes a month to drag bv the private ways 
among the houses." — Sallier Pap. No. II, Brit. Musa?. 

X " Ye shall no more give the people straw to make brick, as here- 
tofore ; let them go and gather straw for themselves." 

' ' And the tale of the bricks, which they did make heretofore, ye 


the quaint writing with which they are covered is as intel- 
ligible to ourselves as to the functionaries to whom it was 
addressed. The Egyptians were eminently business-like, 
and kept accurate entries of the keep and labor of their 
workmen and captives. From the earliest epoch of which 
the monuments furnish record, we find an elaborate 
bureaucratic system in full operation throughout the 
country. Even in the time of the pyramid-builders, there 
are ministers of public works; inspectors of lands, lakes, 
and quarries; secretaries, clerks, and overseers innumer- 
able.* From all these, we may be sure, were required 
strict aceounts of their expenditure, as well as reports of 
the work done under their supervision. Specimens of 
Egyptian book-keeping are by no means rare. The Louvre 
is rich in memoranda of the kind; some relating to the 
date-tax; others to the transport and taxation of corn, the 

shall lay upon them ; ye shall not diminish ought thereof. — Ex- 
odus, chap, v, 7, 8. 

M. Chabas says: "Cese details sont completement conformes aux 
habitudes Egyptiennes. Le melange de paille et d'argile dans les 
briques antiques a ete parfaitement reconnu. D'un autre cote, le 
travail a la tache est mentionne dans un texte ecrit au revers d'un 
papyrus celebrant la splendeur de la ville de Ramses, et datant, selon 
toute vraisemblance, du regne de Meneptah I. En voici la tran- 
scription: ' Compte des macons, 12; en outre des homines a mouler 
la brique dans leurs villes, amenes aux travaux de la maison. Eux a 
faire leur nombre de briques journellesment; non ils sont a se re- 
lacher des travaux dans la maison neuve; c'est ainsi que j'ai obei 
au mandat donne par mon maitre.'" See " Recherches pour servir 
a l'Histoire de la XIX Dynastie," par F. Chabas. Paris : 1873, 
p. 149. 

The curious text thus translated into French by M. Chabas is 
written on the back of the papyrus already quoted (i. e. Letter of 
Panbesa, Anastasi Papyri, No. Ill), and is preserved in the British 
Museum. The wall-painting in a tomb of the eighteenth dynasty at 
Thebes, which represents foreign captives mixing clay, molding, 
drying, and placing bricks, is well known from the illustration in 
Sir G. Wilkinson's "Ancient Egyptians," ed. of 1871, vol. ii, p. 196. 
Cases sixty-one and sixty-two in the first Egyptian room, British 
Museum, contain bricks of mixed clay and straw stamped with the 
name of Barneses II. 

* " Les affaires de la cour et de l'administration du pays sont ex- 
pedites par les ' chefs ' ou les ' intendants,' par les ' secretaires ' et par 
la nombreuse classe des scribes. . . . Le tresor rempli d'or et 
d'argent, et le divan des depenses et des recettes avaient leurs in- 


payment of wages, the sale and purchase of land for burial, 
and the like. If any definite and quite unmistakable news 
of the Hebrews should ever reach us from Egyptian 
sources it will almost certainly be through the medium of 
documents such as these. 

An unusually long reign, the last forty-six years of 
which would seem to have been spent in peace and out- 
ward prosperity, enabled Rameses II to indulge his ruling 
passion without interruption. To draw up anything like 
an exhaustive catalogue of his known architectural works 
would be equivalent to writing an itinerary of Egypt and 
Ethiopia under the nineteenth dynasty. His designs were 
as vast as his means appear to have been unlimited. From 
the delta to Gebel Barkal, he rilled the land with monu- 
ments dedicated to his own glory and the worship of the 
gods. Upon Thebes, Abydos, and Tanis be lavished 
structures of surpassing magnificence. In Nubia, at the 
places now known as Gerf llossayn, Wady Sabooyah, Derr, 
and Abou Simbel, he was the author of temples and the 
founder of cities. These cities, which would probably be 
better described as provincial towns, have disappeared; and 
but for the mention of them in various inscriptions we 
should not even know that they had existed. Who shall 
say how many more have vanished, leaving neither trace 
nor record? A dozen cities of Eameses* may yet lie buried 
under some of these nameless mounds which follow each 
other in such quick succession along the banks of the Nile 
in Middle and Lower Egypt. Only yesterday, as it were, 
the remains of what would seem to have been a magnificent 
structure decorated in a style absolutely unique, were acci- 

tendants a eux. La chambre des cornptes ne manque pas. Les 
domaines, les proprieties, les palais, et merae les lacs du roi sont rnis 
sous la garde d'inspecteurs. Les architectes du Pharaon s'occupent 
de batisses d'apres l'ordre du Pbaraon. Les carrieres, a partir de 
celles du Mokattam (le Toora de nos jours) jusqu'a celles d'Assouan, 
se trouvent exploitees par des chefs qui surveillent le transport des 
pierres tailles a la place de deur destination. Finalement la corvee 
est dirigee par les cbefs des travaux publics." — " Histoire d'Bgypte," 
Brugsch; second edition, 1875; chap, v, pp. 34 and 35. 

* The Pa-Rarneses of the Bible narrative was not the only Egyp- 
tian city of that name. There was a Pa-Rameses near Memphis, 
and another Pa-Remeses at Abou Simbel; and there may probably 
have been many more. 


dentally discovered under the mounds of Tel-el- Yahoodeh,* 
about twelve miles to the northeast of Cairo. There are 
probably fifty such mounds, none of which have been 
opened, in the delta alone; and it is no exaggeration to say 
that there must be some hundreds between the Mediterra- 
nean and the first cataract. 

An inscription found of late years at Abydos shows that 
Rameses II reigned over his great kingdom for the space of 
sixty-seven years. "It is thou," says Rameses IV, address- 
ing himself to Osiris, "it is thou who wilt rejoice me with 
such length of reign as Rameses II, the great god, in his 
sixty-seven years. It is thou who wilt give me the long 
duration of this great reign. "\ 

If only we knew at what age Rameses II succeeded to 
the throne, we should, by help of this inscription, know 
also the age at which he died. No such record has, how- 
ever, transpired, but a careful comparison of the length of 
time occupied by the various events of his reign, and above 
all the evidence of age afforded by the mummy of this 
great Pharaoh, discovered in 1886, show that he must 
have been very nearly, if not quite, a centenarian. 

* " The remains were apparently those of a large hall paved with 
white alabaster slabs. The walls were covered with a variety of 
bricks and encaustic tiles; many of the bricks were of most beautiful 
workmanship, the hieroglyphs in some being inlaid in glass. The 
capitals of the columns were inlaid with brilliant colored mosaice, 
and a pattern in mosaics ran round the cornice. Some of the bricks 
are inlaid with the oval of Rameses III." See "Murray's Hand-book 
for Egypt," route 7, p. 217. 

Case I), in the second Egyptian room at the British Museum, con- 
tains several of these, tiles and terra-cottas, some of which are painted 
with figures of Asiatic and negro captives, birds serpents, etc.; and 
are extremely beautiful both as regards design and execution. 
Marray is wrong, however, in attibuting the building to Rameses II. 
The cartouches are those of Rameses III. The discovery was made 
by some laborers in 1870. 

Note to Second Edition. — This mound was excavated last year 
(1887) by M. Naville, acting as before for the Egypt Exploration 
Fund. See supplementary sheet to The Illustrated London News, 
17th September, 1887, containing a complete account of the excava- 
tions at Tel-el- Yahoodeh, etc., with illustrations. 

f This tablet is votive, and contains in fact a long Pharisaic prayer 
offered to Osiris by Rameses IV in the fourth year of his reign. 
The king enumerates his own virtues and deeds of piety, and 
implores the god to grant him length of days. See " Sur une 
Stele inedite d'Abydos," par P. Pierret. " Revue Archeologique, 
vol. xix, p. 273. 


" Thou madest designs while yet in the age of infancy/' 
says the stela of Dakkeh. " Thou wert a boy wearing the 
sidelock, and no monument was erected and no order was 
given without thee. Thou wert a youth aged ten years, 
and all the public works were in thy hands, laying their 
foundations." These lines, translated literally, cannot, 
however, be said to prove much. They certainly contain 
nothing to show that this youth of ten was, at the time 
alluded to, sole king and ruler of Egypt. That he 
was titular king, in the hereditary sense, from his 
birth* and during the lifetime of his father, is now 
quite certain. That he should, as a boy, have designed 
public buildings and superintended their construction is 
extremely probable. The office was one which might well 
have been discharged by a crown prince who delighted in 
architecture and made it his peculiar study. It was, in 
fact, a very noble office — an office which from the earliest 
days of the ancient empire had constantly been confided 
to princes of the royal blood ;f but it carried with it no 
evidence of sovereignty. The presumption, therefore, 

* M. Mariette, in his great work on Abydos, lias argued that 
Rameses II was designated during the lifetime of his father by a 
cartouche signifying only Ra- User-Ma/ and that he did not take the 
additional Setp-en-Ra till after the death of Seti I. The Louvre, 
however, contains a fragment of bas-relief representing the infant 
Rameses with the full title of his later years. This important frag- 
ment is thus described by M. Paul Pierret: " Rameses II enfant, 
represent! assis sur le signe des montagnes du: c'est une assimilation 
au soleil levant lorsqu'il ('merge a l'horizon celeste. II porte la main 
gauche a sa bouche, en signe d'enfance. La main droite pend 
sur les genoux. II est vetu d'une longue robe. La tresse de l'en- 
fance pend sur son epaule. Un diademe relie ses cheveux, et un 
uraeus se dresse sur son front. Yoici la traduction de la courte 
legende qui accompagne cette representation. ' Le roi de la Haute 
et de la Basse Egypte, maitre des deux pays, Ra- User-Ma Setp-en-Ra, 
vivificateur, eternel comme le soleil.'" — "Catalogue de la Salle 
Historique." P. Pierret. Paris, 1873, p. 8. 

M. Maspero is of opinion that this one fragment establishes the 
disputed fact of his actual sovereignty from early childhood, and so 
disposes of the entire question. See " LTnscription dedicatoire du 
Temple d' Abydos, suivi d'un Essai Sur la jeunesse de Sesostris." 
G. Maspero. 4° Paris, 1867. See also chap, viii (foot note), p. 126. 

f " Le metier d'architecte se trouvait confie aux plus hauts dig- 
nitaires de la cour Pharaonique. Les architectes du roi, les Murket, 
se recrutaient assezsouvent parmi le nombre des princes." — "Histoire 
d'Egypte:" Brugsch, second edition, 1875, chap, v, p. 34. 


would be that the stela of Dakkeh (dating as it does from 
the third year of the sole reign of Rameses II) alludes to 
a time long since past, when the king as a boy held office 
under his father. 

The same inscription, as we have already seen, makes 
reference to the victorious campaign in the south. Rame- 
ses is addressed as "the bull powerful against Ethiopia; 
the griffin furious against the negroes;" and that the events 
hereby alluded to must have taken place during the first 
three years of his sole reign is proved by the date of the 
tablet. The great dedicatory inscription' of Abydos shows, 
in fact, that' Rameses II was prosecuting a campaign 
in Ethiopia at the time when he received intelligence of 
the deatli of his father and that he came down the Nile, 
northward, in order, probably, to be crowned at Thebes.* 

Now the famous sculptures of the commemorative chapel 
at Bayt-el- Welly relate expressly to the events of this 
expedition; and as they are executed in that refined and 
delicate style which especially characterizes the bas-relief 
work of Gourmah, of Adydos, of all those buildings which 
were either erected by Seti I or begun by Seti and finished 
(luring the early years of Rameses II, I venture to think 
we may regard them as contemporary, or very nearly con- 
temporary, with the scenes they represent. In any case, 
it is reasonable to conclude that the artists employed on 
the work would know something about the events and per- 
sons delineated and that they would be guilty of no glaring 

All doubt as to whether the dates refer to the associated 
reigns of Seti and Rameses, or to the sole reign of the 
latter, vanish, however, when in these same sculptures f 
we find the conqueror accompanied by his son, Prince 
Amenheikhopeshef, who is of an age not only to bear his 
part in the field, but afterward to conduct an important 
ceremony of state on the occasion of the submission and 
tribute offering of the Ethiopian commander. Such is the 
unmistakable evidence of the bas-reliefs at Bayt-el- Welly, 
as those who cannot go to Bayt-et- Welly may see and judge 
for themselves by means of the admirable casts of these 

* See " ^Inscription dedicatoire du Temple d'Abydos," etc., by G. 

f See Rosellini, Monumenti Storici, pi. lxxi. 


great tableaux which line the walls of the second Egyptian 
room at the British Museum. To explain away Prince 
Amenherkhopeshef would be difficult. We are accus- 
tomed to a certain amount of courtly exaggeration on the 
part of those who record with pen or pencil the great deeds 
of the Pharaohs. We expect to see the king always young, 
always beautiful, always victorious. It seems only right 
and natural that he should be never less than twenty and 
sometimes more than sixty feet in height. But that any 
flatterer should go so far as to credit a lad of thirteen with 
a son at least as old as himself is surely quite incredible. 

Lastly, there is the evidence of the Bible. 

Joseph being dead and the Israelites established in 
Egypt, there comes to the throne a Pharaoh who takes 
alarm at the increase of this alien race and who seeks to 
check their too rapid multiplication. He not only 
oppresses the foreigners, but ordains that every male infant 
born to them in their bondage shall be cast into the river. 
This Pharaoh is now universally believed to be Rameses II. 
Then comes the old, sweet, familiar Bible story that we 
know so well. Moses is born, cast adrift in the ark of bul- 
rushes and rescued by the king's daughter. He becomes 
to her "as a son." Although no dates are given, it is 
clear that the new Pharaoh has not been long upon the 
throne when these events happen. It is equally clear that 
he is no mere youth. He is old in the uses of state-craft ; 
and he is the father of a princess of whom it is difficult to 
suppose that she was herself an infant. 

On the whole, then, we can but conclude that Rameses 
II, though born a king, was not merely grown to man- 
hood, but wedded, and the father of children already past 
the period of infancy, before he succeeded to the sole ex- 
ercise of sovereign power. This is, at all events, the view 
taken by Professor Maspero, who expressly says, in the 
latest edition of his " Histoire Ancienne," "that Rameses 
II, when he received news of the death of his father, was 
then in the prime of life and surrounded by a large 
family, some of whom were of an age to fight under his 
command." * 

Brugsch places the birth of Moses in the sixth year of 

* " A la nouvelle de la niort de son pere, Ramses II desormais seul 
roi, quitta PEthiopie et ceignit la couronne a Thebes. II etait alors 
dans la plenitude deses forces, et avait autour de lui un grand nonibro 


the reign of Rameses II. * This may very well be. The 
fourscore years that elapsed between that time and the 
time of the exodus correspond with sufficient exactness to 
the chronological data furnished by the monuments. 
Moses would thus see out the sixty-one remaining years of 
the king's long life, and release the Israelites from bond- 
age toward the close of the reign of Menepthah, f who sat 
for about twenty years on the throne of his fathers. The 
correspondence of dates this time leaves nothing to be 

The Sesostris of Diodorus Siculus went blind and died 
by his own hand; which act, says the historian, as it con- 
formed to the glory of his life, was greatly admired by his 
people. We are here evidently in the region of pure fable. 
Suicide was by no means an Egyptian, but a classical, 
virtue. Just as the Greeks hated age, the Egyptians 
reverenced it; and it may be doubted whether a people 
who seem always to have passionately desired length of 
days would have seen anything to admire in a willful short- 

d'enfants, dont quelques-uns etaient assez ages pour combattre sous 
ses ordres."— " Histoire Ancienne des Peuples de l'Orient," par G. 
Maspero, chap, v, p. 220. 4tli edition, 1886. 

* " Comiue Ramses II regna 60 ans, le regne de son successeur sous 
lequel la sortie des Juifs eut lieu, embrassa la duree de 20 ans; et 
counne Moi'se avait l'age de 80 ans au temps de la sortie, il en resulte 
evidemment que les enfants d'Israel quitterent l'Egypte une des ces 
derneires six annees du regne de Menepthah; c'est a dire entre 1327 
et 1331 avant 1'ere chretienne. Si nous admettons que ce Pharaon 
perit dans la mer, selon le rapport biblique, Moise sera ne 80 ans 
avant 1321, on 1401 avant J. Chr., la sirieme annee de regne de Ram- 
ses II."— "Histoire d'Kgypte," Brugscb, cbap. viii, p. 157. First 
edition, Leipzig, 1859. 

f If the exodus took place, however, during the opening years of 
the reign of Menepthah, it becomes necessary either to remove the 
birth of Moses to a correspondingly earlier date, or to accept the 
amendment of Bunsen, who says ""we can hardly take literally the 
statement as to the age of Moses at the exodus, twice over forty 
years." Forty years is the mode of expressing a generation, from 
thirty to thirty -three years. " Egypt's Place in Universal History," 
Bunsen, London, 1859, vol. iii, p. 184. That Meneptah did not him- 
self perish with his host, seems certain. The final oppression of the 
Hebrews and the miracles of Moses, as narrated in the Bible, give 
one the impression of having all happened within a comparatively 
short space of time; and cannot have extended over a period of 
twenty years. Neither is it stated that Pharaoh perished. The tomb 
of Menepthah, in fact, is found in the valley of the tombs of the 
kings (tomb No. 8). 


ening of that most precious gift of the gods. With the 
one exception of Cleopatra — the death of Nitocris the 
rosy-cheeked being also of Greek,* and therefore question- 
able, origin — no Egyptian sovereign is known to have com- 
mitted suicide ; and even Cleopatra, who was half Greek 
by birth, must have been influenced to the act by Greek 
and Roman example. Dismissing, then, altogether this 
legend of his blindness and self-sl a tighter, it must be ad- 
mitted that of the death of Rameses II Ave know nothing 

Such are, very briefly, the leading facts of the history 
of this famous Pharaoh. Exhaustively treated, they would 
expand into a volume. Even then, however, one would 
ask, and ask in vain, what manner of man he was. Every 
attempt to evolve his personal character from these scanty 
data is in fact a mere exercise of fancy, f That he was 
personally valiant may be gathered with due reservation, 
from the poem of Pentaur ; and that he was not unmerci- 
ful is shown in the extradition clause of the Khetan 
treaty. His pride was evidently boundless. Every temple 
which he erected was a monument to his own glory; every 
colossus was a trophy; every inscription a paean of self- 
praise. At Abou Simbel, at Derr, at Gerf Hossayn, he 
seated his own image in the sanctuary among the images 
of the gods. J There are even instances in which he is 

*Herodotus, book ii. 

f Rosellini, for instance, carries hero-worship to its extreme limit when 
he not only states that Rameses the Great had, by bis conquests, filled 
Egypt with luxuries that contributed alike to the graces of every-day 
life and the security of tbe state, but (accepting as sober fact tbe 
complimentary language of a triumphal tablet) adds, that " universal 
peace even secured to him tbe love of the vanquished " (l'universal 
pace assicurata dall' amore dei vinti stessi pel Faraone). — "Mon. 
Storici," vol. iii, part ii, p. 294. Bunsen, equally prejudiced in tbe 
opposite direction, can see no trait of magnanimity or goodness in one 
whom he loves to depict as " an unbridled despot, wbo took advan- 
tage of a reign of almost unparalelled lengtb, and of tbe acquisitions 
of his father and ancestors, in order to torment his own subjects and 
strangers to the utmost of his power, and to employ them as instru- 
ments of his passion for war and building." — " Egypt's Place in Uni- 
versal History," Bunsen, vol. iii, book iv, part ii, p. 184. 

% " Souvent il s'introduit lui meine dans les triades divines aux- 
quelles il dedie les temples. Le soldi de Ramses Me'iamaun qu'on 
apercoit sur leur murailles, n'est autre chose que le roi lui-meme 
deifie de son vivant." — "Notice des Monuments Egyptiennes an 
Musee du Louvre." De Rouge, Paris, 1875, p. 20. 


depicted under the twofold aspect of royalty and divinity — 
Rameses the Pharaoh burning incense before Rameses the 

For the rest, it is safe to conclude that he was neither 
better nor worse than the general run of oriental despots — 
that he was ruthless in war, prodigal in peace, rapacious of 
booty and unsparing in the exercise of almost boundless 
power. Such pride and such despotism were, however, in 
strict accordance with immemorial precedent and with 
the temper of the age in which he lived. The Egyptians 
would seem beyond all doubt to have believed that their 
king was always in some sense divine. They wrote hymns* 
and offered up prayers to him, and regarded him as the 
living representative of deity. His princes and ministers 
habitually addressed him in the language of worship. 
Even his wives, who ought to have known better, are repre- 
sented in the performance of acts of religious adoration be- 
fore him. What wonder, then, if the man so deified be- 
lieved himself a god? 

* See Hymn to Pharaoh (Menepthali), translated by C. W. (iood- 
\'\fl, M. A. " Records of the Past," vol. vi, p. 101. 




We came to Abou Simbel on the night of the 31st of 
January and we left at sunset on the 18th of February. 
Of these eighteen clear days we spent fourteen at the foot 
of the rock of the great temple, called in the old Egyptian 
tongue the Rock of Abshek. The remaining four (taken 
at the end of the first week and the beginning of the 
second) were passed in the excursion to Wady-Halfeh and 
back. By thus dividing the time our long sojourn was 
made less monotonous for those who had no especial work 
to do. 

Meanwhile it was wonderful to wake every morning close 
under the steep bank, and, without lifting one's head from 
the pillow, to see that row of giant faces so close against 
the sky. They showed unearthly enough by moonlight, 
but not half so unearthly as in the gray of dawn. At that 
hour, the most solemn of the twenty-four, they wore a 
fixed and fatal look that was little less than appalling. As 
the sky warmed this awful look was succeeded by a flush that 
mounted and deepened like the rising flush of life. For a 
moment they seemed to glow — to smile — to be transfigured. 
Then came a flash, as of thought itself. It was the first in- 
stantaneous flash of the risen sun. It lasted less than a 
second. It was gone almost before one could say it was 
there. The next moment mountain, river and sky were 
distinct in the steady light of day; and the colossi— mere 
colossi now — sat serene and stony in the open sunshine. 

Every morning I waked in time to witness that daily 
miracle. Every" morning I saw those awful brethren pass 
from death to life, from fife to sculptured stone. I brought 
myself almost to believe at last that there must sooner or 
later come some one sunrise when the ancient charm 
would snap asunder and the giants must arise and speak. 

Stupendous as they are, nothing is more difficult than to 


see the colossi properly. Standing between the rock and 
the river one is too near ; stationed on the island opposite 
one is too far off ; while from the sand-slope only a side 
view is obtainable. Hence, for want of a fitting stand- 
point, many travelers have seen nothing but deformity in 
the most perfect face handed down to us by Egyptian art. 
One recognizes in it the negro and one the Mongolian 
type ;* while another admires the fidelity with which " the 
Nubian characteristics" have been seized. 

Yet, in truth, the head of the young Augustus is not 
cast in a loftier mold. These statues are portraits — por- 
traits of the same man four times repeated ; and that man 
is Rameses the Great. 

Now, Rameses, the Great if he was as much like his 
portraits as his portraits are like each other, must have 
been one of the handsomest men, not only of his own day, 
but of all history. Wheresoever we meet with him, 
whether in the fallen colossus at Memphis or in the syenite 
torso of the British Museum, or among the innumerable 
bas-reliefs of Thebes, Abydos, Goumah, and Bayt-elAVelly, 
his features (though bearing in some instances the impress 
of youth and in others of maturity) are always the same. 
The face is oval; the eyes are long, prominent, and heavy- 
lidded; the nose is slightly aquiline and characteristically 

* The late Vicomte E. de Rouge, in a letter to M. Guigniaut on the 
discoveries at Tanis, believes that he detects the Semitic type in the 
portraits of Rameses II and Seti I ; and even conjectures that the 
Pharaohs of the ninteenth dynasty may have descended from Hyksos 
ancestors : " L'origine de la famille des Ramses nous est jusqu' ici 
completement inconnue ; sa predilection pour le dieu Set on Sutech, 
qui eclate des Fabord par le nom de Seti 1 (Sethos), ainsi que d'autres 
indices, pouvaient deja engager a la reporter vers la Basse Egypte. 
Nous savions nieine que Ramses II avait epouse une fille du Prince 
de Khet, quand le traite de l'an 22 eut ramene la paix entre les deux 
pays. Le profil tres-decidement semitique de Seti et de Ramses se 
distinguait nettement des figures ordinaires de nos Pharaons The- 
bains." (See "Revue Archeologique, vol. ix, A. D. 1864.) In the 
course of the same letter, M. de Rouge adverts to the magnificent 
restoration of the temple of Sutech at Tanis (San), by Rameses II and 
to the curious fact that the god is there represented with the peculiar 
head-dress worn elsewhere by the Prince of Kheta. 

It is to be remembered, however, that the patron deity of Rameses 
II was Amen-Ra. His homage of Sutech (which might possibly have 
been a concession to his Khetan wife) seems to have been confined 
almost exclusively to Tanis, where Ma-at-iri-neferu-Ra may be sup- 
posed to have resided. 



depressed at the tip ; the nostrils are open and sensitive ; 
the under lip projects; the chin is short and square. 

Here, for instance, is an outline from a bas-relief at 

Bay t-el- Welly. The subject is commemorative of the 

king's first campaign. A beardless youth, fired with the 

rage of battle, he clutches a captive by the hair and lifts 

his mace to slay. In this delicate and 

Dantesque face, which lacks as yet the 

fullness and repose of the later portraits, 

we recognize all the distinctive traits of 

the older Eameses. 

Here, again, is a sketch from Abydos, 

in which the king, although he has not 

'>. yet ceased to wear the side-lock of youth, 

*• is seen with a boyish beard, and looks 

some three or four years older than in the previous 


It is interesting to compare these 
heads with the accompanying profile 
of one of the caryatid colossi inside 
the great temple of Abou Simbel; and 
all three with one of the giant portraits 
of the facade. This last, whether re- 
garded as a marvel of size or of por- 
taiture, is the chef-d'oeuvre of Egyp- 
tian sculpture. We here see the great king in his prime. 
His features are identical with those of the 
head at Bayt-el-Welly ; but the contours are 
more amply filled in and the expression is 
altogether changed. The man is full fifteen 
or twenty years older. He has outlived that 
rage of early youth. He is no longer impul- 
sive, but implacable. A godlike serenity, an 
almost superhuman pride, an immutable will, 
breathe from the sculptured stone. He has 
learned to believe his prowess irresistible and 
himself almost divine. If he now raised 
his arm to slay it would be with the stern placidity of a 
destroying angel. 

The annexed wood-cut gives the profile of the southern- 
most colossus, which is the only perfect — or very nearly per- 
fect — one of the four. The original can be correctly 
seen from but one point of view ; and that point is 




(From the southermost colossus, Abou Simbel.) 


where the sand -slope meets the northern buttress of the 
facade, at a level just parallel with the beards of the 
statues. It was thence that the present outline was taken. 
The sand-slope is steep and loose and hot to the feet. More 
disagreeable climbing it would be hard to find, even in 
Nubia; but no traveler who refuses to encounter this small 
hardship need believe that he has seen the faces of the 

Viewed from below, this beautiful portrait is foreshort- 
ened out of all proportion. It looks unduly wide from ear 
to ear, while the lips and the lower part of the nose show 
relatively larger than the rest of the features. The same 
may be said of the great cast in the British Museum. 
Cooped up at the end of a narrow corridor and lifted not 
more than fifteen feet above the ground, it is carefully 
placed so as to be wrong from every point of view and 
shown to the greatest possible disadvantage. 

The artists who wrought the original statues were, how- 
ever, embarrassed by no difficulties of focus, daunted by no 
difficulties of scale. Giants themselves, they summoned 
these giants from out the solid rock and endowed them 
with superhuman strength and beauty. They sought no 
quarried blocks of syenite or granite for their work. They 
fashioned no models of clay. They took a mountain and 
fell upon it like Titans and hollowed and carved it as 
though it were a cherry stone; and left it for the feebler 
men of after ages to marvel at forever. One great hall and 
fifteen spacious chambers they hewed out from the heart of 
it, then smoothed the rugged precipice toward the river, 
and cut four huge statues with their faces to the sunrise, 
two to the right and two to the left of the doorway, there 
to keep watcli to the end of time. 

These tremendous warders sit sixty-six feet high, without 
the platform under their feet. They measure across the chest 
twenty-five feet and four inches; from the shoulder to the 
elbow fifteen feet and six inches; from the inner side of the 
elbow joint to the tip of the middle finger, fifteen feet; and 
so on, in relative proportion. If they stood up, they would 
tower to a height of at least eighty-three feet, from the soles 
of their feet to the tops of their enormous double-crowns. 

Nothing in Egyptian sculpture is perhaps quite so won- 
derful as the way in which these Abou Simbel artists dealt 
with the thousands of tons of material to which they here 


gave human form. Consummate masters of effect, they 
knew precisely what to do and what to leave undone. 
These were portrait statues; therefore they finished the 
heads up to the highest point consistent with their size. 
But the trunk and the lower limbs they regarded from a 
decorative rather than a statuesque point of view. As 
decoration, it was necessary that they should give size and 
dignity to the facade. Everything, consequently, was 
here subordinated to the general effect of breadth, of mas- 
siveness, of repose. Considered thus, the colossi are a 
triumph of treatment. Side by side they sit, placid and 
majestic, their feet a little apart, their hands resting on 
their knees. Shapely though they are, those huge legs 
look scarcely inferior in girth to the great columns of Kar- 
nak. The articulations of the knee-joint, the swell of the 
calf, the outline of the peroneus longus are indicated rather 
than developed. The toe-nails and toe-joints are given in 
the same bold and general way; but the fingers, because 
only the tips of them could be seen from below, are treated 
en bloc. 

The faces show the same largeness of style. The little 
dimple which gives such sweetness to the corners of the 
mouth, and the tiny depression in the lobe of the ear, are, 
in fact, circular cavities as large as saucers. 

How far this treatment is consistent with the most per- 
fect delicacy and even finesse of execution may be gathered 
from the sketch. The nose there shown in profile is three 
feet and a half in length; the mouth, so delicately curved, 
is about the same in width; even the sensitive nostril, 
which looks ready to expand with the breath of life, 
exceeds eight inches in length. The ear (which is placed 
high and is well detached from the head) measures three 
feet and five inches from top to tip. 

A recent writer,* who brings sound practical knowledge 

* " L 'absence de points fouilles, la simplification voulue, la restric- 
tion desdetails et des orneinents a quelques sillons plus ou moins 
bardis, l'engorgement de toutes les parties delicates, demontrent que 
les Egyptiens etaient loin ^d'avoir des precedes et des facilites in- 
connus." — " La Scripture Egyptienne," par Eniile Soldi, p. 48. 

" Un fait qui nous parait avoir du entraver les progres de la sculp- 
ture, c'est l'babitude probable des sculpteurs ou entrepreneurs 
Egyptiens d'entre prendre le travail a meme sur la pierre, sans avoir 
prealablement cbercbe le niodele en terre glaise, conime on le fait de 
nos jours. Une Ms le niodele fini, on le moule et on le reproduit 


to bear upon the subject, is of opinion that the Egyptian 
sculptors did not even " point" their work beforehand. If 
so, then the marvel is only so much the greater. The men 
who, working in so coarse and friable a material, could not 
only give beauty and finish to heads of this size, but could, 
with barbaric tools, hew them out ab initio, from the 
natural rock, were the Michael Angelos of their age. 

It has already been said that the last Eameses to the 
southward is the best preserved. His left arm and hand 
are injured, and the head of the urasus sculptured on the 
front of the pschent is gone; but with these exceptions the 
figure is as whole, as fresh in surface, as sharp in detail, as 
on the day it was completed. The next is shattered to the 
waist. His head lies at his feet, half-buried in sand. The 
third is nearly as perfect as the first; while the fourth has 
lost not only the whole beard and the greater part of the 
urams, but has both arms broken away and a big, cavern- 
ous hole in the front of the body. From the double-crowns 
of the two last the top ornament is also missing. It looks 
a mere knob; but it measures eight feet in height. 

Such an effect does the size of these four figures produce 
on the mind of the sjiectator that he scarcely observes the 
fractures they have sustained. I do not remember to have 
even missed the head and body of the shattered one, 
although nothing is left of it above the knees. Those 
huge legs and feet, covered with ancient inscriptions,* 

mathematiquernent definitive. Ce procede a toujours ete employe 
dans les grandes epoques de l'art; et il ne nous a pas seinble qu'il ait 
jamais ete en usage en Egypte." — Ibid, p. 82. 

M. Soldi is also of opinion that the Egyptian sculptors were igno- 
rant of many of the most useful tools known to the Greek, Roman, and 
modern sculptors, such as the emery-tube, the diamond-point, etc. 

* On the left leg of this colossus is the famous Greek inscription 
discovered by Messrs. Bankes and Salt. It dates from the reign of 
Psamatichus I, and purports to have been cut by a certain Da- 
rnearchon, one of the two hundred and forty thousand Egyptian 
troops of whom it is related by Herodotus (book ii, chaps, xxix and 
xxx) that they deserted because they were kept in garrison at Syene for 
three years without being relieved. The inscription, as translated 
by Colonel Leake, is thus given in Rawlingson's "Herodotus" (vol. ii, 
p. 37); "King Psamatichus having come to Elephantine, those who 
were with Psamatichus, the son of Theocles, wrote this: 'They sailed, 
and came to above Kerkis, to where the river rises . . . the 
Egyptian Amasis. . . .' The writer is Damearchon, the son of 
Aincebichus, and Pelephus (Pelekos), the son of Udamus." The 


some of Greek, some of Phoenician origin, tower so high 
above the heads of those who look at them from below 
that one scarcely thinks of looking higher still. 

The figures are naked to the waist and clothed in the 
usual striped tunic. On their heads they wear the double- 
crown, and on their necks rich collars of cabochon drops 
cut in very low relief. The feet are bare of sandals and 
the arms of bracelets; but in the front of the body, just 
where the customary belt and buckle would come, are 
deep holes in the stone, such as might have been made to 
receive rivets, supposing the belts to have been made of 
bronze or gold. On the breast, just below the necklace, 
and on the upper part of each arm, are cut in magnificent 
ovals, between four and five feet in length, the ordinary 
cartouches of the king. These were probably tattooed 
upon his person in the flesh. 

Some have supposed that these statues were originally 
colored, and that the color may have been effaced by the 
ceaseless shifting and blowing of the sand. Yet the drift 
was probably at its highest when Burckhardt discovered 
the place in 1813 ; and on the two heads that were still 
above the surface he seems to have observed no traces of 
color. Neither can the keenest eye detect any vestige of 
that delicate film of stucco with which the Egyptians in- 
variably prepared their surfaces for painting. Perhaps the 
architects were for once content with the natural color of 
the sandstone, which is here very rich and varied. It 
happens, also, that the colossi come in a light-colored vein 
of the rock, and so sit relieved against a darker back- 
ground. Toward noon, when the level of the facade has 
just passed into shade and the sunlight still strikes upon 
the statues, the effect is quite startling. The whole thing, 
which is then best seen from the island, looks like a huge 
onyx-cameo cut in high relief. 

A statue of Ra,* to whom the temple is dedicated, stands 
some twenty feet high in a niche over the doorway, and is 
supported on either side by a bas-relief portrait of the 
king in an attitude of worship. Next above these comes a 
superb hieroglyphic inscription reaching across the whole 

king Psainatickus here named has been identified with the Psamtik 
I of the inscriptions. It was in his reign, and not as it has some- 
times been supposed, in the reign of Psamatichus II, that the great 
military defection took place. 


front; above the inscription, a band of royal cartouches ; 
above the cartouches, a frieze of sitting apes; above the 
apes, last and highest, some fragments of a cornice. The 
height of the whole may have been somewhat over a hun- 
dred feet. Wherever it has been possible to introduce 
them as decoration, we see the ovals of the king. Under 
those sculptured on the platform and over the door I ob- 
served the hieroglypic character / * \lf #/ * ■. which, in con- 
junction with the sign known ^ V^l/ J as the deter- 
minative of metals, signifies gold (nub) ; but when 
represented, as here, without the determinative, stands for 
Nubia, the Land of Gold. This addition, which I do not 
remember to have seen elsewhere in connection with the 
cartouches of Rameses II, f is here used in an heraldic 
sense, as signifying the sovereignty of Nubia. 

The relative positions of the two temples of Abou Simbel 
have been already described — how they are excavated in two 
adjacent mountains and divided by a cataract of sand. 
The front of the small temple lies parallel to the course of 
the Nile, here flowing in a northeasterly direction. The 
facade of the great temple is cut in the flank of the mount- 
ain and faces due east. Thus the colossi, towering above 
the shoulder of the sand-drift, catch, as it were, a side view 
of the small temple and confront vessels coming up the 
river. As for the sand-drift, it curiously resembles the 
glacier of the Rhone. In size, in shape, in position, in 
all but color and substance, it is the same. Pent in be- 
tween the rocks at top, it opens out like a fan at bottom. 
In this, its inevitable course, it slants downward across the 

* Ra, the principal solar divinity, generally represented with the 
head of a hawk and the sun-disk on his head. " Ra veut dlrefaire, 
disposer; c'est, en effet, le dieu Ra qui a disposie organse le monde, 
dont la matierejui a ete donnee par Ptah." — P. Pierret: " Dictionaire 
d'Archeologie Egyptienne." 

" Ra est une autre des intelligence demiurgiques. Ptah avait 
cree le soleil; le soleil, a son tour, est le createur des etres, animaux 
et homines. II est a l'hemisphere superieure ce qu'Osiris est a 
l'hemisphere inferieure. Ra s'incarne a, Heliopis." — A. Mariette: 
"Notice des Monuments a Boulak," p. 123. 

f An instance occurs, however, in a small inscription sculptured 
on the rocks of the Island of Sehayl in the first cataract, which 
records the second panegyry of the reign of Rameses II. — See " Re- 
cuil des Monuments, etc.:" B-rugsch, vol. ii, Planche lxxxii, Inscrip- 
tion No. 6. 


facade of the great temple. Forever descending, drifting, 
accumulating, it wages the old stealthy war; and, un- 
hasting, unresting, labors, grain by grain, to fill the hol- 
lowed chambers and bury the great statues and wrap the 
whole temple in a winding-sheet of golden sand, so that 
the place thereof shall know it no more. 

It had very nearly come to this when Burckhardt went 
up (a. d. 1813). The top of the doorway was then thirty 
feet below the surface. Whether the sand will ever reach 
that height again must depend on the energy with which 
it is combated. It can only be cleared as it accumulates. 
To avert it is impossible. Backed by the illimitable wastes 
of the Libyan desert, the supply from above is inex- 
haustible, borne it must; and come it will, to the end of 

The drift rose to the lap of the northernmost colossus 
and half-wav up the legs of the next when the Philaj lay 
at Abou Simbel. The doorway was clear, however, almost 
to the threshold, and the sand inside was not more than 
two feet deep in the first hall. The whole facade, we were 
told, had been laid bare, and the interior swept and gar- 
nished, when the Empress of the French, after opening the 
Suez Canal in 1SG9, went up the Nile as far as the second 
cataract. By this time, most likely, that yellow carpet lies 
thick and soft in every chamber, and is fast silting up the 
doorway again. 

How well I remember the restless excitement of our first 
day at Abou Simbel! While the morning was yet cool, the 
painter and writer wandered to and fro, comparing and 
selecting points of view and superintending the pitching 
of their tents. The painter planted his on the very brink 
of the bank, face to face witli the colossi and the open door- 
way. The writer perched some forty feet higher on the pitch 
of the sandslope; so getting a side view of the facade and 
a peep of distance looking up the river. To fix the tent 
up there was no easy matter. It was only by sinking the 
tent-pole in a hole filled with stones that it could be 
trusted to stand against the steady push of the north wind, 
which at this season is almost always blowing. 

Meanwhile the travelers from the other dahabeeyahs 
were tramping backward and forward between the two 
temples; filling the air with laughter and waking strange 
echoes in the hollow mountains. As the day wore on, 


however, they returned to their boats, which one by one 
spread their sails and bore away for Wady Halfeh. 

When they were fairly gone and we had the marvelous 
place all to ourselves we went to see the temples. 

The smaller one, though it comes first in order of sail- 
ing, is generally seen last ; and seen therefore to dis- 
advantage. To eyes fresh from the " Abode of Ra," the 
"Abode of Hathor" looks less than its actual size; which 
is, in fact, but little inferior to that of the temple at Derr. 
A first hall, measuring some forty feet in length by twenty- 
one in width, leads to a transverse corridor, two side- 
chambers, and a sanctuary seven feet square, at the upper 
end of which are the shattered remains of a cow-headed 
statue of Hathor. Six square pillars, as at Derr, support 
what, for want of a better word, one must call the ceiling 
of the hall ; though the ceiling is, in truth, the super- 
incumbent mountain. 

In this arrangement, as in the general character of the 
bas-relief sculptures which cover the walls and pillars, 
there is much simplicity, much grace, but nothing particu- 
larly new. The facade, on the contrary, is a daring innova- 
tion. Here the whole front is but a frame for six recesses, 
from each of which a colossal statue, erect and lifelike, seems 
to be walking straight out from the heart of the mountain. 
These statues, three to the right and three to the left of 
the doorway, stand thirty feet high, and represent Rame- 
ses II and Nefertari, his queen. Mutilated as they are, 
the male figures are full of spirit and the female figures 
full of grace. The queen wears on her head the plumes 
and disk of Hathor. The king is crowned with the 
pschent and with a fantastic helmet adorned with plumes 
and horns. They have their children with them ; the 
queen her daughters, the king his sons — infants of ten 
feet high, whose heads just reach to the parental knee. 

The walls of these six recesses, as they follow the slope 
of the mountain, form massive buttresses, the effect of 
which is wonderfully bold in light and shadow. The 
doorway gives the only instance of a porch that we saw in 
either Egypt or Nubia. The superb hieroglyphs which 
cover the faces of these buttresses and the front of this 
porch are cut half a foot deep into the rock and are so 
large that they can be read from the island in the middle 
of the river. The tale they tell — a tale retold in many 


varied turns of old Egyptian style upon the architraves 
within — is singular and interesting. 

"Barneses, the Strong in Truth, the Beloved of Amen,_ 
says the outer legend, "made this di vice abode* for his 
royal wife, Nefertari, whom he loves." 

The legend within, after enumerating the titles of the 
king, records that "his royal wife who loves him, Nefer- 
tarithe beloved of Maut, constructed for him this abode in 
the mountain of the pure waters." 

On every pillar, in every act of worship pictured on the 
walls, even in the sanctuaVy, we find the names of Rameses 
and Nefertari " coupled and inseparable. In this double 
dedication and in the unwonted tenderness of the style 
one seems to detect traces of some event, perhaps of some 
anniversary, the particulars of which are lost for- 
ever. It may have been a meeting ; it may have been a 
parting ; it may have been a prayer answered or a vow 
fulfilled. We see, at all events, that Rameses and Nefertari 
desired to leave behind them an imperishable record of the 
affection which united them on earth and which they 
hoped would reunite them in Amemti. What more do we 
need to know? We see that the cpieen wa s fair;f that the 

* Though dedicated by Rameses to Nefertari, and by Nefertari to 
Rameses "this temple was placed, primarily, under the patronage of 
Hatbor, the supreme type of divine maternity. She is represented 
bv Queen Nefertari, who appears on the facade as the mother of 
six children and adorned with the attributes of the goddess. A 
temple to Hatbor would also be, from a religious point of view, the 
fitting pendant to a temple of Ra. M. Mariette, in his " Notice des 
Monuments a Boulak," remarks of Hatbor that her functions are 
still but imperfectly known to us. " Peutetre etait-elle a Ra ce que 
Maut est a Amnion, le recipient oil le dieu s'engendre lui-meme 
pour l'eternite." 

+ It is not often that one can say of a female head in an Egyptian 
wall painting that it is beautiful; but in these portraits of the queen, 
many times repeated upon the walls of the first hall of the Temple of 
Hatbor, there is, if not positive beauty according to our western 
notions, much sweetness and much grace. The name of Nefertari 
means perfect, good, or beautiful companion. That the word 
"Nefer" should mean both good and beautiful— in fact, that beauty and 
goodness should be synonymous terms— is not merely interesting as it 
indicates a lofty philosophical standpoint, but as it reveals, perhaps, 
the latent germ 'of that doctrine which was hereafter to be taught with 
such brilliant results in the Alexandrian schools. It is remarkable 
that the word for truth and justice {Ma) was also one and the same. 

There is often a quaint significance about Egyptian proper names 


king was in his prime. We divine the rest; and the poetry 
of the place, at all events, is ours. Even in these barren 
solitudes there is wafted to us a breath from the shores of 
old romance. We feel that Love once jmssed this way and 
that the ground is still hallowed where he trod. 

We hurried on to the great temple, without waiting to 
examine the lesser one in detail. A solemn twilight 
reigned in the first hall, beyond which all was dark. 
Eight colossi, four to the right and four to the left, stand 
ranged down the center, bearing the mountain on their 
heads. Their height is twenty-five feet. With hands 
crossed on their breasts, they clasp the flail and crook — 
emblems of majesty and dominion. It is the attitude of 
Osiris, but the face is the face of Rameses II. Seen by 
this dim light, shadowy, mournful, majestic, they look as 
i'f they remembered the past. 

Beyond the first hall lies a second hall supported on four 
square pillars; beyond this, again, a transverse chamber, 
the walls of which are covered with colored bas-reliefs of 
various gods; last of all, the sanctuary. Here, side by 
side, sit four figures larger than life — Ptah, Amen-Ra, Ra 
and Rameses deified. Before them stands an altar, in 
shape a truncated pyramid, cut from the solid rock. 
Traces of color yet linger on the garments of the statues ; 
while in the walls on either side are holes and grooves such 
as might have been made to receive a screen of metal-work. 

The air in the sanctuary was heavy with an acrid smoke, 
as if the priests had been burning some strange incense 
and were only just gone. For this illusion we were 
indebted to the visitors who had been there before us. 
They had lit the place with magnesian wire ; the vapor of 
which lingers long in these unventilated vaults. 

To settle down then and there to a steady investigation 
of the wall-sculptures was impossible. We did not attempt 
it. Wandering from hall to hall, from chamber to cham- 
ber ; now trusting to the faint gleams that straggled in 

which reminds one of the names that came into favor in England under 
the commonwealth. Take, forinstance, Bak-en-Khonsu, Servant-of- 
Khons; Pa-ta-Amen, the Gift of Amnion; Renpitnefer, Good-year; 
Nub-en Tekh, Worth-Her-Weight-in-Gold (both women's names); and 
Hor-mes-ouV-a-Shu, Horns Son-of-the-Eye-of-Shu — which last, as a 
tolerably long compound, may claim relationship with Praise-God 
l'arebones, Hew-Agag-in Pieces-before-the-Lord, etc. 


from without, now stumbling along by the light of a bunch 
of candles tied to the end of a stick, we preferred to 
receive those first impressions of vastness, of mystery, of 
gloomy magnificance, which are the more profound for 
being somewhat vague and general. 

Scenes of war, of triumph, of worship, passed before our 
eyes like the incidents of a panorama. Here the king, 
borne along at full gallop by plumed steeds gorgeously 
caparisoned, draws his mighty bow and attacks a battle- 
mented fortress. The besieged, some of whom are trans- 
fixed by his tremendous arrows, supplicate for mercy. They 
are a Syrian people and are by some identified with the 
northern Hittites. Their skin is yellow; and they wear 
the long hair and beard, the fillet, the rich robe, fringed 
cape and embroidered baldric with which we are familiar 
in the Nineveh sculptures. A man driving off cattle in 
the foreground looks as if he had stepped out of one of the 
tablets in the British Museum. Rameses meanwhile 
towers, swift and godlike, above the crowd. His coursers 
are of such immortal strain as were the coursers of 
Achilles. His sons, his whole army, chariot and horse, 
follow headlong at his heels. All is movement and the 
splendor of battle. 

Farther on we see the king returning in state, preceded 
by his prisoners of war. Tied together in gangs they stag- 
ger as they go, with heads thrown back and hands uplifted. 
These, however, are not Assyrians, but Abyssinians and 
Nubians, so true to the type, so thick-lipped, fiat-nosed and 
woolly-headed, that only the pathos of the expression saves 
them from being ludicrous. It is naturalness pushed to 
the verge of caricature. 

A little farther still and we find Rameses leading a 
string of these captives into the presence of Amen-Ra, 
Mautand Khons — Amen-Ra weird and unearthly, with his 
blue complexion and towering plumes ; Maut wearing the 
crown of Upper Egypt ; Khons, by a subtle touch of flat- 
tery, depicted with the features of the king. Again, to 
right and left of the entrance, Rameses, thrice the size of 
life, slays a group of captives of various nations. To the 
left Amen-Ra, to the right Ra Harmachis,* approve and 

* Ra Harrnachis, in Egyptian Har-ein-Khou-ti, personifies the sun 
rising upon the eastern horizon. 


jiccejjt the sacrifice. In the second hall we see, as usual, 
the procession of the sacred bark. Ptah, Khem and Bast, 
gorgeous in many-colored garments, gleam dimly, like fig- 
ures in faded tapestry, from the walls of the transverse 

But the wonder of Abou Simbel is the huge subject on 
the north side of the great hall. This is a monster battle- 
piece which covers an area of fifty-seven feet seven inches 
in length, by twenty-five feet four inches in height, 
and contains over eleven hundred figures. Even the her- 
aldic cornice of cartouches and asps which runs round the 
rest of the ceiling is omitted on this side, so that the wall 
is literally filled with the picture from top to bottom. 

Fully to describe this huge design would take many 
pages. It is a picture-gallery in itself. It represents not 
a single action, but a whole campaign. It sets before us, 
with Homeric simplicity, the pomp and circumstance of 
Avar, the incidents of camp life and the accidents of the 
open field. We see the enemy's city, with its battlemented 
towers and triple moat; the besigers' camp and the pavil- 
ion of the king; the march of infantry: the shock of 
chariots; the hand-to-hand melee; the flight of the van- 
quished; the triumph of the Pharaoh; the bringing in of 
the prisoners; the counting of the hands of the slain. A 
great river winds through the picture from end to end and 
almost surrounds the invested city. The king in his chariot 
pursues a crowd of fugitives along the bank. Some are 
crushed under his wheels; some plunge into the water and 
are drowned.* Behind him, a moving wall of shields and 
spears, advances with rhythmic step the serried phalanx; 
while yonder, where the fight is thickest, we see chariots 
overturned, men dead and dying, and riderless horses mak- 
ing for the open. Meanwhile, the besieged send out 
mounted scouts and the country folk drive their cattle to 
the hills. 

A grand frieze of chariots charging at full gallop divides 
the subject lengthwise and separates the Egyptian camp 
from the field of battle. The camp is square and inclosed, 
apparently, in a palisade of shields. It occupies less than 
one-sixth part of the picture and contains about a hundred 
figures. Within this narrow space the artist has brought 

*See chap, viii, p. 126, also chap. xxi. 


together an astonishing variety of incidents. The horses 
feed in rows from a common manger, or wait their turn 
and impatiently paw the ground. Some are lying down. 
One, just unharnessed, scampers round the inclosure. 
Another, making off with the empty chariot at his heels, 
is intercepted by a couple of grooms. Other grooms 
bring buckets of water slung from the shoulders on wooden 
yokes. A wounded officer sits apart, his head resting on his 
hand; and an orderly comes in haste to bring him news of 
the battle. Another, hurt apparently in the foot, is hav- 
ing the wound dressed by a surgeon. Two detachments of 
infantry, marching out to re-enforce their comrades in 
action, are met at the entrance to the camp by the royal 
chariot returning from the field. Rameses drives before 
him some fugitives who are trampled down, seized and 
dispatched upon the spot. In one corner stands a row of 
objects that look like joints of meat; and near them are a 
small altar and a tripod brazier. Elsewhere, a couple of 
soldiers, with a big bowl between them, sit on their heels 
and dip their fingers in the mess, precisely as every fellah 
does to this day. Meanwhile, it is clear that Egyptian disci- 
pline was strict and that the soldier who transgressed was 
as abjectly subject to the rule of stick as his modern 
descendant. In no less than three places do we see 
this time-honored institution in full operation, the supe- 
rior officer energetically flourishing his staff ; the private 
taking his punishment with characteristic disrelish. In 
the middle of the camp, watched over by his keeper, lies 
Rameses' tame lion ; while close against the royal pavilion 
a hostile spy is surprised and stabbed by the officer on 
guard. The pavilion itself is very curious. It is evi- 
dently not a tent but a building, and was probably an ex- 
temporaneous construction of crude brick. It has four 
arched doorways, and contains in one corner an object like 
a cabinet, with two sacred hawks for supporters. This ob- 
ject, which is in fact almost identical with the hieroglyphic 
emblem used to express a royal panegyry or festival, stands, 
no doubt, for the private oratory of the king. Five fig- 
ures kneeling before it in adoration. 

To enumerate all or half the points of interest in this 
amazing picture would ask altogether too much space. 
Even to see it, with time at command and all the help that 
candles and magnesiau torches can give, is far from easy. 


The relief is unusually low, and the surface, having origi- 
nally been covered with stucco, is purposely roughened all 
over with tiny chisel marks, which painfully confuse the 
details. Nor is this all. Owing to some kind of saline 
ooze in that part of the rock, the stucco has not only 
peeled off, but the actual surface is injured. It seems to 
have been eaten away, just as iron is eaten by rust. A few 
patches adhere, however, in places, and retain the original 
coloring. The river is still covered with blue and white 
zigzags, to represents water; some of the fighting groups 
are yet perfect; and two very beautiful royal chariots, one 
of which is surmounted by a richly ornamented parasol- 
canopy, are fresh and brilliant as ever. 

The horses throughout are excellent. The chariot frieze 
is almst Panathenaic in its effect of multitudinous move- 
ment ; while the horses in the camp of Rameses, for natu- 
ralness and variety of treatment, are perhaps the best that 
Egyptian art has to show. It is worth noting, also, that 
a horseman, that vara avis, occurs some four or five times 
in different parts of the picture. 

The scene of the campaign is laid in Syria. The river 
of blue and white zigzags is the Orontes ;* the city of the 
beseiged Kadesh or Kades ;f the enemy are the Kheta. 
The whole is, in fact, a grand picture-epic of the events 
immortalized in the poem of Pentaur — that poem which 
M. de Rouge has described as "a sort of Egyption Iliad." 
The comparison would, however, apply to the picture 
with greater force than it applies to the poem. Pentaur, 
who was in the first place a courtier and in the second 
place a poet, has sacrificed everything to the prominence 
of his central figure. He is intent upon the glorification 
of the king ; and his poem, which is a mere pa?an of 
praise, begins and ends with the prowess of Rameses Mer- 
Amen. If, then, it is to be called an Iliad, it is an Iliad 

* In Egyptian, Aaranatu. 

f In Egyptian, Kateshu. "Aujourdbui encore 11 existe une ville 
de Kades pres d'une courbe de POronte dans le voisinage de Horns." 
Lecons de M. de Rouge, Professhsau College de France. See "Me- 
langes d'Arcbeologie," Egyp. and Assyr., vol. ii, p. 269. Also a 
valuable paper, entitled " Tbe Campaign of Rameses II Against 
Kadesb," by tbe Rev. G. H. Tomkins, "Trans, of tbe Soc. of Bib. 
Arcb., vol. viii, part 3, 1882. Tbe bend of tbe river is actually given 
in tbe bas-reliefs. 


from which everything that does not immediately concern 
Archilles is left out. The picture, on the contrary, 
though it shows the hero in combat and in triumph, and 
always of colossal proportions, yet has space for a host of 
minor characters. The episodes in which these characters 
appear are essentially Homeric. The spy is surprised and 
slain, as Dolon was slain by Ulysses. The men feast, and 
fight, and are wounded, just like the long-haired sons of 
Achaia ; -while their horses, loosed from the yoke, eat 
white barley and oats: 

"Hard by their chariots, waiting for the dawn." 

Like Homer, too, the artist of the battle-piece is careful 
to point out the distinguishing traits of the various com- 
batants. The Khetas go three in a chariot ; the -Egyp- 
tians only two. The Khetas wear a mustache and scalp- 
lock; the Egyptians pride themselves on "a clean shave/' 
and cover their bare heads with ponderous wigs. The 
Sardinian contingent cultivate their own thick hair, 
whiskers and mustachios; and their features are dis- 
tinctly European. They also wear the curious helmet sur- 
mounted by a ball and two spikes, by which they may al- 
ways be recognized in the sculptures. These Sardinians 
appear only in the border-frieze, next the floor. The sand 
had drifted up just at that spot and only the top of one 
fantastic helmet was visible above the surface. Not know- 
ing in the least to what this might belong, we set the men 
to scrape away the sand ; and so, quite by accident, 
uncovered the most curious and interesting group in the 
whole picture. The Sardinians* (in Egyptian Shardana), 

*" La legion S'a/rdana de l'armee de Ramses II provenait d'une 
premiere descente de ces peuples en Egypte. 'Les S'ardana qui 
etaient des prisonniers de sa majeste,' dit expressement le teste de 
Karnak, au commencement du poeme de Pentaur. Les archeologues 
ont remarque la richesse de leur costume et de leurs armures. Les 
principales pieces de leur veteruents seuiblent couvertes de broderies. 
Lear bouchier est une rondache: ils portent une longue et large epee 
de forme ordinaire, mais on remarque aussi dans leurs mains une 
epee d'une longueur demesuree. Le casque des S'ardana est tres 
caracterisque; sa forme est arrondie, mais il est surmonte d'une tige 
qui supporte une boule de metal. Cet ornament est accompagne de 
deux cornes en forme de croissant. . . . Les S'ardana de l'armee 
Egyptienne ont seulement des favoris et des moustaches coupes tres 
courts."—" Memoire sur les Attaques Dirigees centre l'Egypte," etc, 
E. de Rouge. "Revue Archeologique," vol. xvi, pp. 90, 91. 


seem to have been naturalized prisoners of war drafted 
into the ranks of the Egyptian army; and are the first 
European people whose names appear on the monuments. 
There is but one hour in the twenty-four at which it is 
possible to form any idea of the general effect of this vast 
subject; and that is at sunrise. Then only does the pure 
day stream in through the doorway and temper the gloom 
of the side-aisles with light reflected from the sunlit floor. 
The broad divisions of the picture and the distribution of 
the masses may then be dimly seen. The details, however, 
require candle-light and can only be studied a few inches 
at a time. Even so, it is difficult to make out the upper 
groups without the help of a ladder. Salame, mounted on 
a chair and provided with two long sticks lashed together, 
could barely hold his little torch high enough to enable the 
writer to copy the inscription on the middle tower of the 
fortress of Kadesh. 

It is fine to see the sunrise on the front of the great 
temple; but something still finer takes place on certain 
mornings of the year, in the very heart of the mountain. 
As the sun comes up above the eastern hill-tops, one long, 
level, beam strikes through the doorway, pierces the inner 
darkness like an arrow, penetrates to the sanctuary and 
falls like fire from heaven upon the altar at the feet of 
the gods. 

No one who has watched for the coming of that shaft 
of sunlight can doubt that it was a calculated effect and 
that the excavation was directed at one especial angle in 
order to produce it. In this way Ra, to whom the temple 
was dedicated, may be said to have entered in daily and by 
a direct manifestation of his presence to have approved the 
sacrifices of his worshipers. 

I need scarcely say that we did not see half the wall- 
sculptures or even half the chambers that first afternoon 
at Abou Simbel. We rambled to and fro, lost in wonder 
and content to wonder, like rustics at a fair. We had, 
however, ample time to come again and again, and learn 
it all by heart. The writer went in constantly and at all 
hours; "but most frequently at the end of the day's sketch- 
ing, when the rest were walking or boating in the cool of 
the late afternoon. 

It is a wonderful place to be alone in — a place in which 
the verv darkness and silence are old and in which time 


himself seems to have fallen asleep. Wandering to and 
fro among these sculptured halls, like a shade among 
shadows, one seems to have left the world behind; to have 
done with the teachings of the piesent; to belong one's 
self to the past. The very gods assert their ancient influ- 
ence over those who question them in solitude. Seen in 
the fast-deepening gloom of evening, they look instinct 
with supernatural life. There were times when I should 
scarcely have been surprised to hear them speak — to see 
them rise from their painted thrones and come down from 
the walls. There were times when I felt I believed in 

There was something so weird and awful about the 
place, and it became so much more weird and awful the 
farther one went in, that I rarely ventured beyond the 
first hall when quite alone. One afternoon, however, 
when it was a little earlier, and therefore a little lighter 
than usual, I went to the very end and sat at the feet of 
the gods in the sanctuary. All at once (I cannot tell 
why, for my thoughts just then were far away) it flashed 
upon me that a whole mountain hung — ready, perhaps, 
to cave in — above my head. Seized by a sudden 
panic such as one feels in dreams, I tried to run; but my 
feet dragged and the floor seemed to sink under them. I 
felt I could not have called for help, though it had been to 
save my life. It is unnecessary, perhaps, to add that the 
mountain did not cave in, and that I had my fright for 
nothing. It would have been a grand way of dying, all 
the same; and a still grander way of being buried. My 
visits to the great temple were not always so dramatic. 
I sometimes took Salame, who smoked cigarettes when not 
on active duty, or held a candle while I sketched patterns 
of cornices, head-dresses of kings and gods, designs of 
necklaces and bracelets, heads of captives, and the like. 
Sometimes we explored the side-chambers. Of these there 
are eight; pitch-dark, and excavated at all kinds of angles. 
Two or three are surrounded by stone benches cut in the 
rock; and in one the hieroglyphic inscriptions are part cut, 
part sketched in black and left unfinished. As this temple 
is entirely the work of Rameses II, and betrays no sign 
of having been added to by any of his successors, these 
evidences of incompleteness would seem to show that the 
king died before the work was ended. 


I was always under the impression that there were secret 
places yet undiscovered in these dark chambers, and 
Salame and I were always looking for them. At Denderah, 
at Ed fit, at Medinet Habu, at Philse,* there have been 
found crypts in the thickness of the walls and recesses 
under the pavements, for the safe-keeping of treasure in 
time of danger. The rock-cut temples must also have had 
their hiding-places; and these would doubtless take the 
form of concealed cells in the walls, or under the floors of 
the side-chambers. 

To come out from these black holes into the twilight of 
the great hall and see the landscape set, as it were, in the 
ebon frame of the doorway, was alone worth the journey to 
Abou Simbel. The sun being at such times in the west, 
the river, the yellow sand-island, the palms and tamarisks 
opposite, and the mountains of the eastern desert, were all 
Hooded with a glory of light and color to which no pen or 
pencil could possibly do justice. Not even the mountains 
of Moab in Hoi man Hunt's ' 'Scapegoat " were so warm 
with rose and gold. 

Thus our days passed at Abou Simbel; the workers work- 
ing; the idler idling; strangers from the outer world now 
and then coming and going. The heat on shore was great, 
especially in the sketching-tents ; but the north breeze 
blew steadily every day from about an hour after sunrise 
till an hour before sunset, and on board the dahabeeyah it 
was always cool. 

The happy couple took advantage of this good wind to 
do a good deal of boating, and by judiciously timing their 
excursions contrived to use the tail of the day's breeze for 
their trip out, and the strong arms of four good rowers to 
bring them back again. In this way they managed to see 
the little rock-cut temple of Ferayg, which the rest of us 
unfortunately missed. On another occasion they paid a 
visit to a certain sheik who lived at a village about two 
miles south of Abou Simbel. He was a great man, as 
Nubian magnates go. His name was Hassan Ebn Rash- 
wan el Kashef, and he was a grandson of that same old 
Hassan Kashef who was vice-regent of Nubia in the days 

* A rich treasure of gold and silver rings was found by Ferlini, in 
1834, immured in the wall of one of the pyramids of Meroe, in 
Upper Nubia. See Lepsius' Litters, translated by L. and J. Horner, 
Bonn, 1853, p 151. 


of Burckhardt and Belzoni. He received our happy couple 
with distinguished hospitality, killed a sheep in their 
honor, and entertained them for more than three hours. 
The meal consisted of an endless succession of dishes, all 
of which, like that bugbear of our childhood, the hated air 
with variations, -went on repeating the same theme under a 
multitude of disguises; and, whether roasted, boiled, stewed 
or minced, served on skewers, smothered in rice, or 
drowned in sour milk, were always mutton au fond. 

We now despaired of ever seeing a crocodile; and but 
for a trail that our men discovered on the island opposite, 
we should almost have ceased to believe that there were 
crocodiles in Egypt. The marks were quite fresh when we 
went to look at them. The creature had been basking 
high and dry in the sun, and this was the point at which 
he had gone down again to the river. The damp sand at 
the water's edge had taken the mold of his huge fleshy 
paws, and even of the jointed armor of his tail, though 
this last impression was somewhat blurred by the final rush 
with which he had taken to the water. I doubt if Robin- 
son Crusoe, when he saw the famous footprint on the 
shore, was more excited than we of the Philaj at sight of 
this genuine and undeniable trail. 

As for the idle man, he flew at once to arms and made 
ready for the fray. He caused a shallow grave to be dug 
for himself a few yards from the spot; then went and lay 
in it for hours together, morning after morning, under the 
full blaze of the sun — flat, patient, alert — with his gun 
ready cocked, and a Pall Mall Budget up his back. It was 
not his fault if he narrowly escaped sunstroke and had his 
iabor for his reward. That crocodile was too clever for 
him and took care never to come back. 

Our sailors, meanwhile, though well pleased with an 
occasional holiday, began to find Abou Simbel monoto- 
nous. As long as the Bagstones stayed, the two crews met 
every evening to smoke, and dance, and sing their quaint 
roundelays together. But when rumors came of wonder- 
ful things already done this winter above Wady Halfeh — 
rumors that represented the second cataract as a populous 
solitude of crocodiles — then our faithful consort slipped 
away one morning before sunrise and the Philse was left 

At this juncture, seeing that the men's time hung heavy 


on their hands, our painter conceived the idea of setting 
them to clean the face of the northernmost colossus, still 
disfigured by the plaster left on it when the great cast * 
was taken by Mr. Hay more than half a century before. 
This happy thought was promptly carried into effect. A 
scaffolding of spars and oars was at once improvised, and 
the men, delighted as children at play, were soon swarm- 
ing all over the huge head, just as the carvers may have 
swarmed over it in the days when Rameses was king. 

All they had to do was to remove any small lumps that 
might yet adhere to the surface, and then tint the white 
patches with coffee. This they did with bits of sponge 
tied to the ends of sticks ; but Rei's Hassan, as a mark of 
dignity, had one of the painter's old brushes, of which he 
was immensely proud. 

It took them three afternoons to complete the job; and 
we were all sorry when it came to an end. To see Rei's 
Hassan artistically touching up a gigantic nose almost as 
long as himself ; Riskalli and the cook-boy staggering to 
and fro with relays of coffee, brewed "thick and slab" for 
the purpose ; Salame perched cross-legged, like some com- 
placent imp, on the towering rim of the great pschent 
overhead; the rest chattering and skipping about the scaf- 
folding like monkeys, was, I will venture to say, a sight more 

* This cast, the property of the British Museum, is placed over a 
door leading to the library at the end of the northern vestibule, 
opposite the staircase. I was informed by the late Mr. Bonomi that the 
mold was made by Mr. Hay, who had with him an Italian assistant 
picked up in Cairo. They took with them some barrels of plaster 
and a couple of ladders, and contrived, with such spars and poles as 
belonged tothedahabeeyah, to erect a scaffolding and a matted shelter 
for the plasterman. The colossus was at this time buried up to its chin 
in sand, which made the task so much the easier. When the mold 
of the head was brought to England, it was sent to Mr. Bonomi's 
studio, together with a mold of the head of the colossus at Mitra- 
henny, a mold of the apex of the fallen obelisk at Karnak, and 
molds of the wall-sculptures at Bayt-et-Welly. Mr. Bonomi super- 
intended the casting and placing of all these in the museum about 
three years after the molds were made. This was at the time when 
Mr. Hawkins held the post of keeper of antiquities. I mention 
these details, not simply because they have a special interest for 
all who are acquainted with Abou Simbel, but because a good deal 
of misapprehension has prevailed on the subject, some travelers 
attributing the disfigurement of the head to Lepsius, others to the 
Crystal Palace Company, and so forth. Even so careful a writer as 
the late Miss Martineau ascribes it, on hearsay, to Champollion. 

ABO U 81MB EL. 281 

comic than has ever been seen at Abou Simbel before or 

Rameses' appetite for coffee was prodigious. He con- 
sumed I know not how many gallons a day. Our cook 
stood aghast at the demand made upon Ins stores. Never 
before had he been called upon to provide for a guest 
whose mouth measured three feet and a half in width. 

Still, the result justified the expenditure. The coffee 
proved a capital match for the sandstone ; and though it 
was not possible wholly to restore the uniformity of the 
original surface, we at least succeeded in obliterating those 
ghastly splotches, which for so many years have marred 
this beautiful face as with the unsightliness of leprosy. 

What with boating, fishing, lying in wait for crocodiles, 
cleaning the colossus, and filling reams of thin letter 
paper to friends at home, we got through the first week 
quickly enough — the painter and the writer working hard,, 
meanwhile, in their respective ways; the painter on his big 
canvas in front of the temple; the writer shifting her little 
tent as she listed. 

Now, although the most delightful occupation in life is 
undoubtedly sketching, it must be admitted that the 
sketcher at Abou Simbel works under difficulties. Fore- 
most among these comes the difficulty of position. The 
great temple stands within about twenty-five yards of the 
brink of the bank, and the lesser temple within as many 
feet; so that to get far enough from one's subject is simply 
impossible. The present writer sketched the small temple 
from the deck of the dahabeeyah ; there being no point of 
view obtainable on shore. 

Next comes the difficulty of color. Everything, except 
the sky and the river, is yellow — yellow, that is to say, 
" with a difference"; yellow ranging through every grada- 
tion of orange, maize, apricot, gold and buff. The mount- 
ains are sandstone ; the temples are sandstone; the sand- 
slope is powdered sandstone from the sandstone desert. 
In all these objects, the scale of color is necessarily the 
same. Even the shadows, glowing with reflected light, 
give back tempered repetitions of the dominant hue. 
Hence it follows that he who strives, however humbly, to 
reproduce the facts of the scene before him, is compelled, 
Ion gre, mat gre, to execute what some of our young 
painters would nowadays call a symphony in yellow. 


Lastly, there are the minor inconveniences of sun, sand, 
wind, and Hies. The whole place radiates heat, and seems 
almost to radiate light. The glare from above and the 
glare from below are alike intolerable. Dazzled, blinded, 
unable to even look at his subject without the aid of smoke- 
colored glasses, the sketcher whose tent is pitched upon 
the sandslope over against the great temple enjoys a fore- 
taste of cremation. 

When the wind blows from the north (which at this 
time of the year is almost always) the heat is perhaps less 
distressing, but the sand is maddening. It fills your hair, 
your eyes, your water-bottles; silts up your color-box; dries 
into your skies; and reduces your Chinese white to a gritty 
paste the color of salad-dressing. As for the flies, they 
have a morbid appetite for water-colors. They follow 
your wet brush along the paper, leave their legs in the yel- 
low ocher, and plunge with avidity into every little pool of 
cobalt as it is mixed ready for use. Nothing disagrees 
with them; nothing poisons them — not even olive-green. 

It was a delightful time, however — delightful alike for 
those who worked and those who rested — and these small 
troubles counted for nothing in the scale. Yet it was 
pleasant, all the same, to break away for a day or two, and 
be off to Wady Half eh. 




A fresh breeze, a full sail, and the consciousness of a 
holiday well earned, carried us gayly along from Abou 
Simbel to Wady Halfeh. We started late in the afternoon 
of the first day, made about twelve miles before the wind 
dropped, and achieved the remaining twenty-eight miles 
before noon the next day. It was our last trip on the Nile 
under canvas. At Wady Halfeh the Philse was doomed to 
be dismantled. The big sail that had so long been our 
pride and delight would there be taken down, and our 
good boat, her grace and swiftness gone at one fell swooji, 
would become a mere lumbering barge, more suggestive of 
civic outings on the Thames than of Cleopatra's galley. 

For some way beyond Abou Simbel, the western bank is 
fringed by a long line of volcanic mountains, as much 
alike in height, size, and shape, as a row of martello 
towers. They are divided from one another by a series of 
perfectly uniform sand-drifts; while on the rounded top of 
each mountain, thick as the currants on the top of a cer- 
tain cake, known to schoolboys by the endearing name of 
" black-caps," lies a layer of the oddest black stones in the 
world. Having more than once been to the top of the 
rock of Abshek (which is the first large mountain of the 
chain, and strewn in the same way) we recognized the 
stones, and knew what they were like. In color they are 
purplish black, tinged here and there with dull red. They 
ring like clinkstone when struck, and in shape are most 

fantastic. L picked up some like petrified bunches of 

grapes. Others are twisted and writhen like the Vesuvian 
lava of 1871. They lie loose upon the surface, and are of 
all sizes; some being as small as currants, and others as 
large as quartern loaves. Speaking as one having no kind 
of authority, I should say that these stones are unquestion- 
ably of fiery parentage. One seems to see how, boiling 


and bubbling in a state of fusion, they must have been 
suddenly checked by contact with some cooler medium. 

Where the chain ends, about three or four miles above 
Abou Simbel, the view widens, and a host of outlying 
mountains are seen scattered over an immense plain reach- 
ing for miles into the western desert. On the eastern 
bank, Kalat Adda,* a huge, rambling Roman citadel, 
going to solitary ruin on the last water- washed precipice 
to the left — brings the opposite range to a like end, and 
abuts on a similar plain, also scattered over with detached 
peaks. The scene here is desolately magnificent. A large 
island covered with palms divides the Nile in two branches, 
each of which looks as wide as the whole river. An un- 
bounded distance opens away to the silvery horizon. On 
the banks there is no vendure; neither is there any sign of 
human toil. Nothing lives, nothing moves, save the wind 
and the river. 

Of all the strange peaks we have yet seen, the mountains 
hereabout are the strangest. Alone or in groups, they start 

*" A castle, resembling in size and form that of Ibrim; it bears 
the name of Kalat Adda; it has been abandoned many years, being 
entirely surrounded by barren rocks. Part of its ancient wall, 
similar in construction to that of Ibrim, still remains. The habita- 
tions are built partly of stone and partly of brick. On the most 
elevated spot in the small town, eight or ten gray granite columns of 
small dimensions lie on the ground, with a few capitals near tbem 
of clumsy Greek architecture." — Burckhardt's "Travels in Nubia," 
1819, p. 38. 

In a curious Arabic history of Nubia written in the tenth century 
a. d. by one Abdallah Ben Ahmed Ben Solaim of Assuan, fragments 
of which are preserved in the great work of Makrizy, quoted by 
Burckhardt and E. Quatremere (see foot note, p. 202), there occurs 
the following remarkable passage: " In this province (Nubia) is 
situated the city of Bedjrasch, capital of Maris, the fortress of Ibrim, 
and another place called Adwa, which has a port, and is, they say, 
the birthplace of the sage Lokman and of Dhoul Noun. There is to 
be seen there a magnificent Birbeh" ("On^y voit an Berba mag- 
nifique.") — " Memoires (ieographiques sur l'Egypte," etc. E Quatre- 
mere, Paris, 1811; vol. ii, p. 8. 

If Adwa and Adda are one and the same, it is possible that in this 
passage we find preserved the only comparatively modern indication 
of some great rock-cut temple, the entrance to which is now entirely 
covered by the sand. It is clear tbat neither Abou Simbel (which is 
on the opposite bank, and some three or four miles north of Adda) 
nor Ferayg (which is also some way off, and quite a small place) can 
here be intended. That another temple exists somewhere between 
Abou Simbel and Wady Halfeh, and is yet to be discovered, seems 
absolutely certain from the tenor of a large stela sculptured on the 


up here and there from the desert, on both sides, like the 
pieces on a chess-board. They are for the most part conical; 
but they are not extinct craters, such as are the volcanic 
cones of Korosko and Dakkeh. Seeing how they 
all rose to about the same height and were alike capped 
with that mysterious couche of shining black stones, the 
writer could not help fancying that, like the isolated Rocher 
de Corneille and Rocher de St. Michael at Puy, they might 
be but fragments of a rocky crust, rent and swept away at 
some infinitely remote period of the world's history, and 
that the level of their present summits might represent 
perhaps the ancient level of the plain. 

As regards form, they are weird enough for the wildest 
geological theories. All taper more or less toward the top. 
One is four-sided, like a pyramid; another, in shape a 
truncated cone, looks as if crowned with a pagoda summer- 
house; a third seems to be surmounted by a mosque and 
cupola; a fourth is scooped out in tiers of arches; a fifth is 
crowned, apparently, with a cairn of piled stones; and so 
on, with variations as endless as they are fantastic. A 
geologist might perhaps account for these caprices by show- 
ing how fire and earthquake and deluge had here succeeded 

rock a few paces north of the smallei* temple at Aboa Simbel. This 
stela, which is one of the most striking and elaborate tbere, repre- 
sents an Egyptian gateway surmounted by the winged globe, and 
shows Rameses II enthroned and receiving the homage of a certain 
prince whose name, as translated by Rosellini, is Rameses-Neniscti- 
Habai. The inscription, which is in sixteen columns and perfectly 
preserved, records the titles and praises of the king, and states how 
"he had made a monumental abode for Horus, his father, Lord of 
Ha'm, excavating in the bowels of the Rock of Ha'm to make him a 
habitation of many ages." We know nothing of the Rock of Ha'm 
(rendered Sciam by Rosellini), but it should no doubt be sought some- 
where between Abou Simbel and Wady Half eh. " Qual sito pre- 
cisamente dinotisi in questo nome di Sciam, io non saprei nel presente 
stato delle cose determinare: credo peraltro secondo varie loughi 
delle iscrizioni che lo ricordano, che fosse situato sull' una o l'altra 
sponda del Nilo, nel paese compreso tra Wadi-halfa e Ibsambul, o 
poco oltre. E qui dovrebbe trovarsi il nominalo speco di Horus, fino 
al presente occulto a noi."— Rosellini Letterpress to " Monumenti 
Storici," vol. iii, part ii, p. 184. It would hence appear that the Rock 
of Ha'm is mentioned in other inscriptions. 

The distance between Abou Simbel and Wady Half eh is only forty 
miles, and the likely places along the banks are but few. Would 
not the discovery of this lost temple be an enterprise worthier the 
ambition of tourists, than the extermination of such few crocodiles 
as yet linger north of the second contract? 


each other; and how, after heing first covered with vol- 
canic stones and then split into chasms, the valleys thus 
opened had by and by been traversed by torrents which 
wore away the softer parts of the rock and left the harder 

Some way beyond Kalat Adda, when the Abou Simbel 
range and palm island have all but vanished in the dis- 
tance and the lonely peak called the Mountain of the Sun 
(Gebel esh-Shems), has been left far behind, we came 
upon a new wonder — namely: upon two groups of scattered 
tumuli, one on the eastern, one on the western bank. Not 
volcanic forms these; not even accidental forms, if one may 
venture to form an opinion from so far off. They are of 
various sizes; some little, some big; all perfectly round 
and smooth and covered with a rich, greenish-brown allu- 
vial soil. How did they come there? Who made them? 
What did they contain? The Roman ruin close by — the 
two hundred and forty thousand* deserters who must have 
passed this way — the Egyptian and Ethiopian armies that 
certainly poured their thousands along these very banks, and 
might have fought many a battle on this open plain, suggest 
all kinds of possibilities and rill one's head with visions of 
buried arms and jewels and cinerary urns. We are more 
than half-minded to stop the boat and land that very 
moment; but are content on second thoughts with promis- 
ing ourselves that we will at least excavate one of the 
smaller hillocks on our way back. 

And now, the breeze freshening and the dahabeeyah 
tearing gallantly along, we leave the tumuli behind, and 
enter upon a more desolate region, where the mountains 
recede farther than ever and the course of the river is inter- 
rupted by perpetual sand-banks. 

On one of these sand-banks, just a few yards above the 
edge of the water, lay a log of drift-wood, apparently a 
battered old palm trunk, with some remnants of broken 
branches yet clinging to it; such an object, in short, as my 
American friends would very properly call a "snag." 

Our pilot leaned forward on the tiller, put his finger to 
his lip and whispered: 


The painter, the idle man, the writer, were all on deck, 

*See foot note page 265. 


and not one believed him. They had seen too many of 
these snags already and were not going to let themselves 
again be excited about nothing. 

The pilot pointed to the cabin where L and the little 

lady were indulging in that minor vice called afternoon 

"Sitteh !" said he, "call sitteh! Crocodilo !" 

We examined the object through our glasses. We 
laughed the pilot to scorn. It was the worst imitation of 
a crocodile that we had yet seen. 

All at once the palm-trunk lifted up its head, cocked its 
tail, found its legs, set off running, wriggling, undulating 
down the slope with incredible rapidity and was gone 
before we could utter an exclamation. 

We three had a bad time when the other two came up 
and found that we had seen our first crocodile without 

A sand-bank which we passed next morning was scored 
all over with fresh trails and looked as if it had been the 
scene of a crocodile-parliament. There must have been at 
least twenty or thirty members present at the sitting; and 
the freshness of the marks showed that they had only just 

A keen and cutting wind carried us along the last 
thirty miles of our journey. We had supposed that the 
farther south we penetrated the hotter we should find the 
climate; yet now, strange to say, we were shivering in seal- 
skins, under the most brilliant sky in the world and in a 
latitude more southerly than that of Mecca or Calcutta. 
It was some compensation, however, to run at full speed 
past the dullest of Nile scenery, seeing only sand-banks in 
the river; sand-hills and sand-flats on either hand; a dis- 
used shaduf or a skeleton-boat rotting at the water's edge; 
a wind-tormented Dom palm struggling for existence on 
the brink of the bank. 

At a fatal corner about six miles below Wady Halfeh, we 
passed a melancholy flotilla of dismantled dahabeeyahs — 
the Fostat, the Zenobia, the Alice, the Mansoorah — all 
alike weather-bound and laid up helplessly against the 

wind. The Mansoorah, with Captain and Mrs. E on 

board, had been three days doing these six miles; at which 
rate of progress they might reasonably hope to reach Cairo 
in about a year and a month. 


The palms of Wady Halfeh, blue with distance, came 
into sight at the next bend; and by noon the Phils was 
once more moored alongside the Bagstones under a shore 
crowded with cangias, covered with bales and packing- 
cases and, like the shores of Mahatta and Assuan, popu- 
lous with temporary huts. For here it is that traders 
going by water embark and disembark on their way to and 
fro between Dongola and the first cataract. 

There were three temples — or at all events three ancient 
Egyptian buildings — once upon a time on the western bank 
over against Wady Halfeh. Now there are a few broken 
pillars, a solitary fragment of brick pylon, some remains 
of a flight of stone steps leading down to the river, and a 
wail of inclosure overgrown with wild pumpkins. These 
ruins, together with a rambling native Khan and a noble 
old sycamore, form a picturesque group backed by amber 
sand-cliffs, and mark the site of a lost city* belonging to 
the early days of Usurtesen III. 

The second, or great, cataract begins a little way above 
Wady Halfeh and extends over a distance of many miles. 
It consists, like the first cataract, of a succession of rocks 
and rapids, and is skirted for the first five miles or so by 
the sand-cliff ridge which, as I have said, forms a back- 
ground to the ruins just opposite Wady Halfeh. This 
ridge terminates abruptly in the famous precipice known 
as the Rock of Abusir. Only adventurous travelers bound 
for Dongola or Khartum go beyond this point; and they, 
for the most part, take the shorter route across the desert 

from Korosko. L and the writer would fain have hired 

camels and pushed on as far as Semneh; which is a matter 
of only two days' journey from Wady Halfeh, and, for 
people provided with sketching-tents, is one of the easiest 
of inland excursions. 

One may go to the Rock of Abusir by land or by water. 
The happy couple and the writer took two native boatmen 
versed in the intricacies of the cataract and went in the 
felucca. L and the painter preferred donkeying. Given 

* " Un second temple, plus grand, niais tout aussi detruit que le 
precedent, existe un peu plus au sud, e'etait le grand temple de la 
villa Egyptienne de Beheni, qui exista sur cet emplacement, et qui 
d'apres l'etendu des debris de poteries repandus sur la plaine au- 
jourdhui deserte, parait avoir ete assez grande. " — Champollion, 
Lettres ecritesd'Egypte, etc., ed. 1868; Letter ix. 


a good breeze from the right quarter, there is, as regards 
time, but little to choose between the two routes. No one, 
however, who has approached the Rock of Abusir by 
water, and seen it rise like a cathedral front from the midst 
of that labyrinth of rocky islets— some like clusters of 
basaltic columns, some crowned with crumbling ruins, 
some bleak and bare, some green with wild pomegranate 
trees — can doubt which is the more picturesque. 

Landing among the tamarisks at the foot of the cliff, 
we come to the spreading skirts of a sand-drift steeper and 
more fatiguing to climb than the sand-drift at Abou Sim- 
bel. We do climb it, however, though somewhat sulk- 
ily, and, finding the donkey-party perched upon the top, 
are comforted with draughts of ice-cold lemonade, brought 
in a kullah from Wady Ilalfeh. 

The summit of the rock is a mere ridge, steep and over- 
hanging toward east and south, and carved all over with 
autographs in stone. Some few of these are interesting; 
but for the most part they record only the visits of the il- 
lustrious-obscure. We found Belzoni's name; but looked 
in vain for the signatures of Burckhardt, Champollion, 
Lepsius and Ampere. 

Owing to the nature of the ground and the singular 
clearness of the atmosphere, the view from this point 
seemed to be the most extensive I, had ever looked upon. 
Yet the height of the Rock of Abusir is comparatively in- 
significant. It would count but as a mole-hill, if measured 
against some Alpine summits of my acquaintance. I 
doubt whether it is as lofty as even the great pyramid. It 
is, however, a giddy place to look down from, and seems 
higher than it is. 

It is hard, now that we are actually here, to realize that 
this is the end of our journey. The cataract— an immense 
multitude of black and shining islets, among which the 
river, divided into hundreds of separate channels, spreads 
far and wide for a distance, it is said, of more than sixteen 
miles— foams at our feet. Foams, and frets, and falls ; 
gushing smooth and strong where its course is free ; mur- 
muring hoarsely where it is interrupted; now hurrying ; 
now loitering; here eddying in oily circles; there lying in 
still pools unbroken by a ripple ; everywhere full of life, 
full of voices; everywhere shining to the sun. North- 
ward;, where it winds away toward Abou Simbel, we see all 


the fantastic mountains of yesterday on the horizon. To the 
east,still bounded byout-liersof the same disconnected chain, 
lies a rolling waste of dark and stony wilderness trenched with 
innumerable valleys through which flow streams of sand. On 
the western side, the continuity of the view is interrupted by 
the ridge which ends with Abusir. Southward the Libyan 
desert reaches away in a vast undulating plain; tawny, arid 
monotonous ; all sun ; all sand ; lit here and there with 
arrowy flashes of the Nile. Farthest of all, pale but dis- 
tinct, on the outermost rim of the world, rise two mount- 
ain summits, one long, one dome-like. Our Nubians tell 
us that these are the mountains of Dongola. Comparing 
our position with that of the third cataract as it appears 
upon the map, we come to the conclusion that these ghost- 
like silhouettes are the summits of Mount Fogo * and 
Mount Arambo — two apparently parallel mountains situate 
on opposite sides of the river about ten miles below 
Hannek, and consequently about one hundred and forty- 
five miles, as the bird flies, from the spot on which we are 

In all this extraordinary panorama, so wild, so weird, so 
desolate, there is nothing really beautiful except the color. 
But the color is transcendent. Never, even in Egypt, 
have I seen anything so tender, so transparent, so harmo- 
nious. I shut my eyes and it all comes before me. I see 
the amber of the sands ; the pink and pearly mountains; 
the cataract rocks, all black and purple and polished; the 
dull gray palms that cluster here and there upon the larger 
islands; the vivid verdure of the tamarisks and pomegran- 
ates; the Nile, a greenish-brown flecked with yeasty foam; 
over all, the blue and burning sky, permeated with light, 
and palpitating with sunshine. 

I made no sketch. I felt that it would be ludicrous to 
attempt it. And I feel now that any endeavor to put the 
scene into words is a mere presumptuous effort to describe 
the indescribable. Words are useful instruments ; but, 
like the etching needle and the burin, they stop short at 
form. They cannot translate color. 

If a traveler pressed for time asked me whether he 
should or should not go as far as the second cataract, I 

* Mount Fogo, as shown upon Keith Johnston's map of Egypt and 
Nubia, would seem to be identical with the Ali Bersi of Lepsius, 


think I should recommend him to turn back from Abou 
Simbel. The trip must cost four days; and if the wind 
should happen to be unfavorable either way, it may cost 
six or seven. The forty miles of river that have to be 
twice traversed are the dullest on the Nile; the cataract is 
but an enlarged and barren edition of the cataract be- 
tween Assuan and Phila?; and the great view, as I have 
said, has not that kind of beauty which attracts the gen- 
eral tourist. 

It has an interest, however, beyond and apart from that 
of beauty. It rouses one's imagination to a sense of the 
greatness of the Nile. We look across a world of desert, 
and see the river still coming from afar. We have reached 
a point at which all that is habitable and familiar comes 
abruptly to an end. Not a village, not a bean-field, not a 
shaduf, not a sakkieh, is to be seen in the plain below. 
There is no sail on those dangerous waters. There is no 
moving creature on those pathless sands. But for the 
telegraphic wires stalking, ghostlike, across the desert, it 
would seem as if we had touched the limit of civilization, 
and were standing on the threshold of a land unexplored. 

Yet for all this, we feel as if we were at only the begin- 
ning of the mighty river. We have journeyed well-nigh 
a thousand miles against the stream ; but what is that to 
the distance which still lies between us and the great lakes? 
And how far beyond the great lakes must we seek for the 
source that is even yet undiscovered? 

We stayed at Wady Halfeli but one night and paid but 
one visit to the cataract. We saw no crocodiles, though 
they are still plentiful among these rocky islets. The M. 
B.'s, who had been here a w r eek, were full of crocodile 
stories and of Alfred's deeds of arms. He had stalked 
and shot a monster, two clays before our arrival ; but the 
creature had rushed into the water when hit, waving its 
tail furiously above its head, and had neither been seen 
nor heard of since. 

Like Achilles, the crocodile has but one vulnerable 
spot; and this is a small unarmored patch behind the fore- 
arm. He will take a good deal of killing even there, un- 
less the bullet finds its way to a vital part, or is of the dia- 
bolical kind called "explosive." Even when mortally 
w T ounded, he seldom drops on the spot. With his last 
strength, he rushes to the water and dies at the bottom. 


After three days the carcass rises and floats, and our 
friends were now waiting in order that Alfred might hag 
his hig game. Too often, however, the poor brute either 
crawls into a hole, or, in his agony, becomes entangled 
among weeds and comes up no more. For one crocodile 
bagged, a dozen regain the river, and, after lingering 
miserably under water, die out of sight and out of reach 
of the sportsman. 

While we were climbing the Rock of Abusir our men 
were busy taking down the big sail and preparing the 
Philaa for her long and ignominious journey down-stream. 
We came back to find the mainyard laid along like a roof- 
tree above our heads; the sail rolled up in a huge ball and 
resting on the roof of the kitchen ; the small aftersail and 
yard hoisted on the mainmast; the oars lashed six on each 
side; and the lower deck a series of yawning chasms, every 
alternate plank being taken up so as to form seats and 
standing places for the rowers. 

Thus dismantled, the dahabeeyah becomes, in fact, a gal- 
ley. Her oars are now her chief motive power; and a crew 
of steady rowers (having always the current in their favor) 
can do thirty miles a day. When, however, a good breeze 
blows from the south, the small sail aud the current are 
enough to carry the boat well along ; and then the men 
reserve their strength for rowing by night, when the wind 
has dropped. Sometimes, when it is a dead calm and the 
rowers need rest, the dahabeeyah is left to her own devices 
and floats with the stream — now waltzing ludicrously in 
the middle of the river ; now drifting sidewise like Mr. 
Winkle's horse ; now sidling up to the east bank; now 
changing her mind and blundering over to the west; mak- 
ing upon an average about a mile and a half 01 two miles 
an hour, and presenting a pitiful spectacle of helpless 
imbecility. At other times, however, the head wind 
blows so hard that neither oars nor current avail; and then 
there is nothing for it but to lie under the bank and wait 
for better times. 

This was our sad case in going back to Abou Simbel. 
Having struggled with no little difficulty through the first 
five-and-twenty miles, we came to a dead-lock about half- 
way between Faras and Gebel-esh-Shems. Carried forward 
by the stream, driven back by the wind, buffeted by the 
waves, and bumped incessantly by the rocking to and fro 
of the felucca, our luckless Phila?, after oscillating for 


hours within the space of a mile, was run at last into a 
sheltered nook, and there left in peace till the wind should 
change or drop. 

Imprisoned here for a day and a half, we found our- 
selves, fortunately, within reach of the tumuli which we 
had already made up our minds to explore. Making first 
for those on the east bank, we took witli us in the felucca 
four men to row and dig, a fire-shovel, a small hatchet, an 
iron bar, and a large wicker basket, which were the only 
implements we possessed. What we wanted both then 
and afterward, and what no dahabeeyah should ever be 
without, were two or three good spades, a couple of picks, 
and a crowbar. 

Climbing to the top of one of the highest of these hil- 
locks, we began by surveying the ground. The desert 
here is firm to the tread, flat, compact, and thickly strewn 
with pebbles. Of the fine yellow sand which characterizes 
the Libyan bank, there is little to be seen, and that little 
lies like snow in drifts and clefts and hollows, as if carried 
thither by the wind. The tumuli, however, are mounded 
of pure alluvial mold, smooth, solid, and symmetrical. We 
counted thirty-four of all sizes, from five to about five-and- 
thirty feet in height, and saw at least as many more on the 
opposite side of the river. 

Selecting one of about eight feet high, we then set the 
sailors to work ; and although it was impossible, with so 
few men and such insufficient tools, to cut straight through 
the center of the mound, we at all events succeeded in 
digging down to a solid substratum of lumps of crude clay, 
evidently molded by hand. 

Whether these formed only the foundation of the 
tumulus, or concealed a grave excavated below the level of 
the desert, we had neither time nor means to ascertain. 
It was something at all events, to have convinced our- 
selves that the mounds were artificial.* 

As we came away, we met a Nubian peasant trudging 
northward. He was leading a sorry camel ; had a white 
cockerel under his arm; and was followed by a frightened 

* On referring to Col. H. Vyse's "Voyage into Upper Egypt," etc. 
I see that be also opened one of these tumuli, but " found no indica- 
tion of an artificial construction." I can only conclude tbat be did 
not carry bis excavation low enough. As it is difficult to suppose 
the tumuli made for nothing, I cannot help believing that they 
would repay a more systematic investigation. 


woman, who drew her shawl over her face and cowered 
behind him at sight of the Ingleezeh. 

We asked the man what the mounds were, and who 
made them; bnt he shook his head, and said they had 
been there "from old time." We then inquired by what 
name they were known in these parts; to which, urging 
his camel forward, he replied hesitatingly that they had a 
name, but that he had forgotten it. 

Having gone a little way, however, he presently turned 
back, saying that he now remembered all about it, and that 
they were called " The Horns of Yackma." 

More than this we could not get from him. Who 
Yackma was, or how he came to have horns, or why his 
horns should take the form of tumuli, was more than he 
could tell or we could guess. 

We gave him a small backshish, however, in return for 
this mysterious piece of information, and went our way 
with all possible speed; intending to row across and see 
the mounds on the opposite bank before sunset. But we 
had not calculated upon the difficulty of either threading 
our way among a chain of sand-banks, or going at least two 
miles farther north, so as to get round into the navigable 
channel at the other side. We of course tried the shorter 
way, and after running aground some three or four times, 
had to give it up, hoist our little sail, and scud homeward 
as fast as the wind would carry us. 

The coming back thus, after an excursion in the felucca, 
is one of the many pleasant things that one has to remem- 
ber of the Nile. The sun has set; the after-glow has 
faded; the stars are coming out. Leaning back with a 
satisfied sense of something seen or done, one listens to the 
Qld dreamy chant of the rowers and to the ripple under 
the keel. The palms, meanwhile, glide past, and are seen 
in bronzed relief against the sky. Presently the big boat, 
all glittering with lights, looms up out of the dusk. A 
cheery voice hails from the poop. We glide under the 
bows. Half a dozen smiling brown laces bid us welcome, 
and as many pairs of brown hands are outstretched to help 
us up the side. A savory smell is wafted from the 
kitchen; a pleasant vision of the dining-saloon, with table 
ready spread and lamps ready lit, flushes upon us through 
the open doorway. We are at home once more. Let us 
eat, drink, rest, and be merry; for to-morrow the hard 
work of sight-seeing and sketching begins again. 




We came back to find a fleet of dahabeeyahs ranged 
along the shore at Abou Simbel and no less than three 
sketching-tents in occupation of the ground. One of 
these, which happened to be pitched on the precise spot 
vacated by our painter, was courteously shifted to make 
way for the original tenant; and in the course of a couple 
of hours we were all as much at home as if we had not 
been away for half a day. 

Here, meanwhile, was our old acquaintance — the Fostat, 
with her party of gentlemen ; yonder the Zenobia, all 

ladies; the little Alice, with Sir J. C and Mr. W on 

board; the Sirena, flying witli stars and stripes; the Man- 
soorah, bound presently for the Fayum. To these were 
next day added the Ebers, with a couple of German 
savants ; and the Bagstones, welcome back from Wady 

What with arrivals and departures, exchange of visits, 
exhibitions of sketches and sociabilities of various kinds, 
we had now quite a gay time. The Philas gave a dinner- 
party and fantasia under the very noses of the colossi and 
every evening there was drumming and howling enough 
among the assembled crews to raise the ghosts of Rameses 
and all his queens. This was pleasant enough while it 
lasted; but when the strangers dropped off one by one and 
at the end of three days we were once more alone, I think 
Ave were not sorry. The place was, somehow, too solemn 

" Singing, laughing, ogling and all that." 

It was by comparing our watches with those of the 
travelers whom we met at Abou Simbel, that we now 
found out how hopelessly our timekeepers and theirs had 
gone astray. We had been altering ours continually ever 


since leaving Cairo; but the sun was as continually putting 
them wrong again, so that we had lost all count of the true 
time. The first words with which we now greeted a new- 
comer were: "Do you know what o'clock it is?" To 
which the stranger as invariably replied that it was the 
very question he was himself about to ask. The confusion 
became at last so great that, finding that we had about 
eleven hours of day to thirteen of night, we decided to 
establish an arbitrary canon; so we called it seven when the 
sun rose and six when it set, which answered every 

It was between two and four o'clock, according to this 
time of ours, that the southern cross was now visible every 
morning. It is undoubtedly best seen at Abou Simbel. 
The river is here very wide and just where the constellation 
rises there is an opening in the mountains on the eastern 
bank, so that these four fine stars, though still low in the 
heavens, are seen in a free space of sky. If they make, 
even so, a less magnificent appearance than one has been 
led to expect, it is probably because we see them from too 
low a point of view. To say that a constellation is fore- 
shortened sounds absurd ; yet that is just what is the 
matter with the Southern Cross at Abou Simbel. Viewed at 
an angle of about thirty degrees, it necessarily looks dis- 
tort and dim. If seen burning in the zenith, it would no 
doubt come up to the level of its reputation. 

It was now the fifth day after our return from Wady 
Halfeh, when an event occurred that roused us to an un- 
wonted pitch of excitement and kept us at high pressure 
throughout the rest of our time. 

The day was Sunday ; the date February 16, 1874; the 
time, according to Philas reckoning, about eleven a.m., 
when the painter, enjoying his seventh day's holiday after 
his own fashion, went strolling about among the rocks. 
He happened to turn his steps southward and, passing the 
front of the great temple, climbed to the top of a little 
shapeless mound of fallen cliff and sand and crude-brick 
wall, just against the corner where the mountain slopes 
down to the river. Immediately round this corner, look- 
ing almost due south, and approachable only by a narrow 
ledge of rock, are two votive tablets, sculptured and 
painted, both of the thirty-eighth year of Rameses II. We 
had seen these from the river as we came back from Wady 


Halfeh, and had remarked how fine the view must be from 
that point. Beyond the fact that they are colored and that 
the coior upon them is still bright, there is nothing remark- 
able about these inscriptions. There are many such at 
Abou Simbel. Our painter did not, therefore, come here 
to examine the tablets; he was attracted solely by the 

Turning back presently his attention was arrested by 
some much mutilated sculptures on the face of the rock, a 
few yards nearer the south buttress of the temple. He had 
seen these sculptures before — so, indeed, had I, when 
wandering about that first day in search of a point of 
view — without especially remarking them. The relief was 
low, the execution slight; and the surface so broken away 
that only a few confused outlines remained. 

The thing that now caught the painter's eye, however, 
was a long crack running transversely down the face of the 
rock. It was such a crack as might have been caused, one 
would say, by blasting. 

He stooped — cleared the sand away a little with his hand 
— observed that the crack widened — poked in the point of 
his stick and found that it penetrated to a depth of two or 
three feet. Even then it seemed to him to stop, not because 
it encountered any obstacle, but because the crack was not 
wide enough to admit the thick end of the stick. 

This surprised him. No mere fault in the natural rock, 
he thought, would go so deep. He scooped away a little 
more sand; and still the cleft widened. He introduced the 
stick a second time. It was a long palm-stick, like an 
alpenstock, and it measured about five feet in length. When 
he probed the cleft with it this second time it went in 
freely up to where he held it in his hand — that is to say, 
to a depth of quite four feet. 

Convinced now that there was some hidden cavity in the 
rock, he carefully examined the surface. There were yet 
visible a few hieroglyphic characters and part of two car- 
touches, as well as some battered outlines of what had once 
been figures. The heads of these figures were gone (the face 
of the rock, with whatever may have been sculptured upon 
it, having come away bodily at this point), while from the 
waist downward they were hidden under the sand. Only 
some hands and arms, in short, could be made out. 

They were the hands and arms, apparently, of four 


figures; two in the center of the composition and two at 
the extremities. The two center ones, which seemed to 
be back to back, probably represented gods; the outer ones, 

All at once it flashed upon the painter that he had seen 
this kind of a group many a time before — and generally 
over a doorway. 

Feeling sure now that he was on the brink of a discovery 
he came back, fetched away Salame and MehemetAli, and, 
without saying a syllable to any one, set to work with 
these two to scrape away the sand at the spot where the 
crack widened. 

Meanwhile, the luncheon-bell having rung thrice, we 
concluded that the painter had rambled off somewhere into 
the desert, and so sat down without him. Toward the 
close of the meal, however, came a penciled note, the con- 
tents of which ran as follows: 

" Pray come immediately — I have found the entrance to 
a tomb. Please send some sandwiches. A. M'C ." 

To follow the messenger at once to the scene of action 
was the general impulse. In less than ten minutes we were 
there, asking breathless questions, peeping in through the 
fast-widening aperture and helping to clear away the sand. 

All that Sunday afternoon, heedless of possible sun- 
stroke, unconscious of fatigue, we toiled upon our hands 
and knees, as for bare life, under the burning sun. We had 
all the crew up, working like tigers. Every one helped; 
even the dragoman and the two maids. More than once, 
when we paused for a moment's breathing-space, we said 
to each other: •' If those at home could see us what would 
they say?" 

And now, more than ever, we felt the need of imple- 
ments. With a spade or two and a wheelbarrow we could 
have done wonders ; but with only one small fire-shovel, 
a birch broom, a couple of charcoal baskets, and about 
twenty pairs of hands, we were poor indeed. What was 
wanted in means, however, was made up in method. 
Some scraped away the sand ; some gathered it into 
baskets; some carried the baskets to the edge of the cliff 
and emptied them into the river. The idle man dis- 


tinguished himself by scooping out a channel where the 
slope was steepest ; which greatly facilitated the work. 
Emptied down this chute and kept continually going, the 
sand poured off in a steady stream like water. 

Meanwhile the opening grew rapidly larger. When we 
first came up — that is, when the painter and the two 
sailors had been working on it for about an hour — we 
found a hole scarcely as large as one's hand, through 
which it was just possible to catch a dim glimpse of painted 
walls within. By sunset the top of the doorway was laid 
bare, and where the crack ended in a large triangular 
fracture there was an aperture about a foot and a half 
square, into which Mehemet Ali was the first to squeeze 
his way. We passed him in a candle and a box of matches; 
but he came out again directly, saying that it was a most 
beautiful birbeh, and quite light within. 

The writer wriggled in next. She found herself looking 
down from the top of a sand-slope into a small square 
chamber. This sand-drift, which here rose to within a 
foot and a half of the top of the doorway, was heaped to 
the ceiling in the corner behind the door, and thence sloped 
steeply down, completely covering the floor. There was 
light enough to see every detail distinctly — the painted 
frieze running round just under the ceiling ; the bas-relief 
sculptures on the walls, gorgeous with unfaded color; the 
smooth sand, pitted near the top, where Mehemet Ali had 
trodden, but undisturbed elsewhere by human foot ; the 
great gap in the middle of the ceiling, where the rock had 
given way ; the fallen fragments on the floor, now almost 
buried in sand. 

Satisfied that the place was absolutel} 7 fresh and un- 
touched, the writer crawled out, and the others, one by 
by one, crawled in. When each had seen it in turn the 
opening was barricaded for the night; the sailors being for- 
bidden to enter it lest they should injure the decorations. 

That evening was held a solemn council, whereat it w 7 as 
decided that Talhamy and Reis Hassan should go to-mor- 
row to the nearest village, there to engage the services of 
fifty able-bodied natives. With such help, we calculated 
that the place might easily be cleared in tw r o days. If it 
was a tomb we hoped to discover the entrance to the 
mummy pit below ; if but a small chapel, or speos, like 
those at Ibrim, we should at least have the satisfaction of 


seeing all that it contained in the way of sculptures and 

This was accordingly done ; but we worked again next 
morning just the same, till midday. Our native con- 
tingent, numbering about forty men, then made their 
appearance in a rickety old boat, the bottom of which was 
half-full of water. 

They had been told to bring implements ; and they did 
bring such as they had — two broken oars to dig with, some 
baskets, and a number of little slips of planking which, 
being tied between two pieces of rope and drawn along the 
surface, acted as scrapers and were useful as far as they 
went. Squatting in double file from the entrance of the 
speos to the edge of the cliff, and to the burden of a rude 
chant propelling these improvised scrapers, the men began 
by clearing a path to the doorway. This gave them work 
enough for the afternoon. At sunset, when they dis- 
persed, the path was scooped out to a depth of four feet, 
like a miniature railway cutting between embankments of 

Next morning came the sheik in person with his two 
sons and a following of a hundred men. This was so 
many more than we had bargained for that we at once 
foresaw a scheme to extort money. The sheik, however, 
proved to be that same Rashwan Ebn Hassan el Kashef, 
by whom the happy couple had been so hospitably enter- 
tained about a fortnignt before; we therefore received him 
with honor, invited him to luncheon, and, hoping to get 
the work done quickly, set the men on in gangs under the 
superintendence of Rei's Hassan and the head sailor. 

By noon the door was cleared down to the threshold, 
and the whole south and west walls were laid bare to the 

We now found that the debris which blocked the north 
wall and the center of the floor was not, as we had at 
first supposed, a pile of fallen fragments, but one solid 
bowlder which had come down bodily from above. To 
remove this was impossible. We had no tools to cut or 
break it and it was both wider and higher than the doorway. 
Even to clear away the sand which rose behind it to the 
ceiling would have taken a long time and have caused in- 
evitable injury to the paintings around. Already the brill- 


iancy of the color was marred where the men had leaned 
their backs, all wet with perspiration, against the walls. 

Seeing, therefore, that three-fourths of the decorations 
were now uncovered, and that behind the fallen block there 
appeared to be no subject of great size or importance, we 
made up our minds to carry the work no further. 

Meanwhile, we had great fun at luncheon with our 
Nubian sheik — a tall, well-featured man with much 
natural dignity of manner. He was well dressed, too, and 
wore a white turban most symmetrically folded; a white 
vest buttoned to the throat; a long, loose robe of black 
serge; an outer robe of fine black cloth with hanging 
sleeves and a hood; and on his feet, white stockings and 
scarlet morocco shoes. When brought face to face with 
a knife and fork his embarrassment was great. He was, 
it seemed, too grand a personage to feed himself. He 
must have a "feeder;" as the great men of the middle ages 
had a " taster." Talhamy accordingly, being promoted to 
this office, picked out choice bits of mutton and chicken 
with his fingers, dipped pieces of bread in gravy and put 
every morsel into our guest's august mouth, as if the said 
guest were a baby. 

The sweets being served, the little lady, L and the 

writer took him in hand and fed him with all kinds of 
jams and preserved fruits. Enchanted with these atten- 
tions, the poor man eat till he could eat no longer; then 
laid his hand pathetically over the region next his heart 
and cried for mercy. After luncheon he smoked his 
chibouque and coffee was served. Our coffee did not please 
him. He tasted it, but immediately returned the cup, 
telling the waiter with a grimace, that the berries were 
burned and the coffee weak. When, however, we apolo- 
gized for it, he protested with oriental insincerity that it 
was excellent. 

To amuse him was easy, for he was interested in every- 
thing; in L 's field-glass, in the painter's accordion, in 

the piano, and the lever corkscrew. With some eau-de- 
cologne he was also greatly charmed, rubbing it on his 
beard and inhaling it with closed eyes, in a kind of 
rapture To make talk was, as usual, the great difficulty. 
When he had told us that his eldest son was Governor of 
Derr; that his youngest was five years of age; that the 
dates of Derr were better than the dates of Wady Hall'eh; 


and that the Nubian people were very poor, he was at the 
end of his topics. Finally, he requested us to convey a 

letter from him to Lord I) , who had entertained him 

on board his dahabeeyah the year before. Being asked if 
he had brought his letter with him, he shook his head, 
saying: "Your dragoman shall write it." 

So paper and a reed pen were produced and Talhamy 
wrote to dictation as follows: 

" God have care of you. I hope you are well. I am 
sorry not to have had a letter from you since you were 
here. Your brother and friend, 

"Eashwan Ebjst Hassaist el Kashef." 

A model letter this; brief and to the point. 

Our urbane and gentlemanly sheik was, however, not 
quite so charming when it came to settling time. We had 
sent at first for fifty men, and the price agreed upon was 
five piasters, or about a shilling English, for each man per 
day. In answer to this call, there first came forty men for 
half a day; then a hundred men for a whole day, •or what 
was called a whole day; so making a total of six pounds 
due for wages. But the descendants of the Kashefs would 
hear of nothing so commonplace as the simple fulfillment of 
a straightforward contract. He demanded full pay for a 
hundred men for two whole days, a gun for himself, and a 
liberal backshish in cash. Finding he had asked more 
than he had any chance of getting, he conceded the ques- 
tion of wages, but stood out for a game-bag and a pair of 
pistols. Finally, he was obliged to be content with the six 
pounds for his men, and for himself two pots of jam, two 
boxes of sardines, a bottle of eau-de-cologne, a box of pills, 
and half a sovereign. 

By four o'clock he and his followers were gone, and we 
once more had the place to ourselves. So long as they 
were there it was impossible to do anything, but now, for 
the first time, we fairly entered into possession of our 
newly found treasure. 

All the rest of that day, and all the next day, we spent 

at work in and about the spoos. L and the little 

lady took their books and knitting there, and made a little 
drawing-room of it. The writer copied paintings and 
inscriptions. The idle man and the painter took measure- 


ments and surveyed the ground round about, especially 
endeavoring to make out the plan of certain fragments of 
wall, the foundations of which were yet traceable. 

A careful examination of these ruins, and a little clear- 
ing of the sand here and there, led to further discoveries. 
They found that the speos had been approached by a 
large outer hall built of sun-dried brick, with one princi- 
pal entrance facing the Nile, and two side entrances facing 
northward. The floor was buried deep in sand and debris, 
but enough of the walls remained above the surface to 
show that the ceiling had been vaulted and the side 
entrances arched. 

The southern boundary wall of this hall, when the sur- 
face sand was removed, appeared to be no less than twenty 
feet in thickness. This was not in itself so wonderful, 
there being instances of ancient Egyptian crude-brick walls 
which measure eighty feet in thickness;* but it was 
astounding as compared with the north, east, and west 
walls, which measured only three feet. Deeming it impos- 
sible that this mass could be solid throughout, the idle man 
set to work with a couple of sailors to probe the center part 
of it, and it soon became evident that there was a hollow 
space about three feet in width running due east and west 
down not quite exactly the middle of the structure. 

All at once the idle man thrust his fingers into a skull! 

This was such an amazing and unexpected incident that 
for the moment he said nothing, but went on quietly dis- 
placing the sand and feeling his way under the surface. 
The next instant his hand came in contact with the edge of 
a clay bowl, which he carefully withdrew. It measured 
about four inches in diameter, was hand-molded, and full 
of caked sand. He now proclaimed his discoveries and all 
ran to help in the work. Soon a second and smaller skull 
was turned up, then another bowl, and then, just under 
the place from which the bowls were taken, the bones of 
two skeletons, all detached, perfectly desiccated, and appar- 
ently complete. The remains were those of a child and a 
small grown person — probably a woman. The teeth were 
sound; the bones wonderfully delicate and brittle. As for 

* The inclosure-wall of the great Temple of Tanis is eighty feet 
thick. See "Tanis," Part 1, by W. M. F. Petrie; published by the 
Committee of the Egypt Exploration Fund, 1885. [Note to second 


the little skull (which had fallen apart at the sutures), it 
was pure and fragile in texture as the cup of a water-lily. 

We laid the bones aside as we found them, examining 
every handful of sand, in the hope of discovering some- 
thing that might throw light upon the burial. But in 
vain. We found not a shred of clothing, not a bead, not 
a coin, not the smallest vestige of anything that might 
help one to judge whether the interment had taken place 
a hundred years ago or a thousand. 

We now called up all the crew, and went on excavating 
downward into what seemed to be a long and narrow vault 
measuring some fifteen feet by three. 

After-reflection convinced us that we had stumbled upon 
a chance Nubian grave, and that the bowls (which at first 
we absurdly dignified with the name of cinerary urns) 
were but the usual water-bowls placed at the heads of the 
dead. But we were in no mood for reflection at the time. 
We made sure that the speos was a mortuary chapel; that 
the vault was a vertical pit leading to a sepulchral chamber; 
and that at the bottom of it we should find — who could 
tell what? Mummies, perhaps, and sarcophagi, and funerary 
statuettes, and jewels, and papiry and wonders without end! 
That these uncared-for bones should be laid in the mouth 
of such a pit, scarcely occurred to us as an incongruity. 
Supposing them to be Nubian remains, what then ? If a 
modern Nubian at the top, why not an ancient Egyptian at 
the bottom ? 

As the work of excavation went on, however, the vault 
was found to be entered by a steep inclined plane. Then 
the inclined plane turned out to be a flight of much worn 
and very shallow stairs. These led down to a small square 
landing, some twelve feet below the surface, from which 
landing an arched doorway* and passage opened into the 
fore-court of the speos. Our sailors had great difficulty 
in excavating this part, in consequence of the weight of 
superincumbent sand and debris on the side next the 
speos. By shoring up the ground, however, they were 

* It was long believed that the Egyptians were ignorant of the 
principle of the arch. This, however, was not the case. There are 
brick arches of the time of Rameses II behind the Ramesseum at 
Thebes and elsewhere. Still, arches are rare in Egypt. We filled 
in and covered the arch again, and the greater part of the .staircase 
in order to preserve the former 


enabled completely to clear the landing, which was curi- 
ously paved with cones of rude pottery like the bottoms of 
amphora?. These cones, of which we took out some 
twenty eight or thirty, were not in the least like the cele- 
brated funerary cones found so abundantly at Thebes. 
They bore no stamp, and were much shorter and more 
lumpy in shape. Finally, the cones being all removed, we 
came to a compact and solid floor of baked clay. 

The painter, meanwhile, had also been at work. Hav- 
ing traced the circuit and drawn out a ground-plan, he 
came to the conclusion that the whole mass adjoining 
the southern wall of the speos was in fact composed 
of the ruins of a pylon, the walls of which were seven feet 
in thickness, built in regular string-courses of molded 
brick, and finished at the angles with the usual torus, or 
round molding. The superstructure, with its chambers, 
passages, and top cornice, was gone; and this part with 
which we were now concerned was merely the basement, 
and included the bottom of the staircase. 

The painter's ground-plan demolished all our hopes at 
once fell swoop. The vault was a vault no longer. The 
staircase led to no sepulchral chamber. The brick floor 
had no secret entrance. Our mummies melted into thin 
air, and we were left with no excuse for carrying on the exca- 
vations. We were mortally disappointed. In vain we told 
ourselves that the discovery of a large brick pylon, the ex- 
istence of which had been unsuspected by preceding trav- 
elers, was an event of greater importance than the finding 
of a tomb. We had set our hearts on the tomb; and I am 
afraid we cared less than we ought for the pylon. 

Having traced thus far the course of the excavations 
and the way in which one discovery led step by step to an- 
other, I must now return to the speos, and, as accurately 
as I can, describe it, not only from my notes made on the 
spot, but by the light of such observations as I afterward 
made among structures of the same style and period. I 
must, however, premise that, not being able to go inside 
while the excavators were in occupation, and remaining 
but one whole day at Abou Simbel after the work was 
ended, I had but" a short time at my disposal. I would 
gladly have made colored copies of all the wall-paintings; 
but this was impossible. I therefore was obliged to be 
content with transcribing the inscriptions and sketching a 
few of the more important subjects. 


The rock-cut chamber which I have hitherto described as a 
speos, and which we at first believed to be a tomb, was in fact 
neither the one or the other. It was the adytum of a partly 
built, partly excavated monument coeval in date with the 
great temple. In certain points of design this monument 
resembles the contemporary speos of Bayt-el-Welly. It is 
evident, for instance, that the outer halls of both were 
originally vaulted ; and the much mutilated sculptures 
over the doorway of the excavated chamber at Abou Simbel 
are almost identical in subject and treatment with those 
over the entrance to the excavated parts of Bayt-el-Welly. 
As regards general conception, the Abou Simbel monu- 
ment comes under the same head with the contemporary 
Temples of Derr, Gerf Hossayn, and YVady Sabooah; being 
in a mixed style which combines excavation with construc- 
tion. This style seems to have been peculiarly in favor 
during the reign of Rameses II. 

Situated at the southeastern angle of the rock, a little way 
beyond the facade of the great temple, this rock-cut adytum 
and hall of entrance face southeast by east, and com- 
mand much the same view that is commanded higher up 
by the Temple of Hathor. The adytum, or excavated 
speos, measures twenty-one feet two and one-half inches in 
breadth by fourteen feet eight inches in length. The 
height from floor to ceiling is about twelve feet. The 
doorway measures four feet three and one-half inches in 
width; and the outer recess for the door-frame, five feet. 
Two large circle holes, one in the threshold and the other 
in the lintel, mark the place of the pivot on which the 
door once swung. 

It is not very easy to measure the outer hall in its pres- 
ent ruined and encumbered state; but as nearly as we could 
judge, its dimensions are as follows: Length, twenty-five 
feet; width, twenty-two and one-half feet: width of prin- 
cipal entrance facing the Xile, six feet: width of two side 
entrances, four feet and six feet respectively; thickness of 
crude-brick walls, three feet. Engaged in the brickwork 
on either side of the principal entrance to this hall are two 
stone door-jambs; and some six or eight feet in front of 
these there originally stood two stone hawks on hiero- 
glyphed pedestals. One of these hawks we found insitu, 
the other lay some little distance off. and the painter (sus- 
pecting nothing of these after-revelations) had used it as a 



post to which to tie one of the main ropes of his sketching- 
tent. A large hieroglyphed slab, which I take to have 

Scale fi of an Inch-to a Foot. 

1. Wall of pylon. 

I' !Kd llunlwly and passage leading to vaulted ball. 

4. Walls of outer hall or pronaos. 

5. Door-jambs. 

6. Stone hawks on pedestals. 

a Arched entrances in north wall of pronaos. 

formed part of the door, lay overturned against the sid( 
of the pylon some few yards nearer the river. 



As far us the adytum and outer hall are concerned, the 
accompanying ground-plan — which is in part founded on 
my own measurements, and in part borrowed from the 
ground-plan drawn out by the painter — may be accepted 
as tolerably correct. But with regard to the pylon, I can 
only say with certainty that the central staircase is three 
feet in width, and that the walls on each side of it are 
seven feet in thickness. So buried is it in debris and 
sand, that even to indicate where the building ends and 
the rubbish begins at the end next the Nile, is impossible. 
This part is, therefore, left indefinite in the ground-plan. 

So far as we could see, there was no stone revetement 
upon the inner side of the walls of the pronaos. If any- 


thing of the kind ever existed, some remains of it would 
probably be found by thoroughly clearing the area; an in- 
teresting enterprise for any who may have leisure to 
undertake it. 

I have now to speak of the decorations of the adytum, 
the walls of which, from immediately under the ceiling to 
within three feet of the floor, are covered with religious 
subjects elaborately sculptured in bas-relief, coated as 
usual with a thin film of stucco and colored with a rich- 
ness for which I know no parallel, except in the tomb of 
Seti I * at Thebes. Above the level of the drifted sand 
this color was as brilliant in tone and as fresh in surface as 
on the day when it was transferred to those walls from the 
palette of the painter. All below that level, however, was 
dimmed and deranged. 

The ceiling is surrounded by a frieze of cartouches sup- 
ported by sacred asps; each cartouche, with its supporters, 

* Commonly known as Belzoni's tomb. 



being divided from the next by a small sitting figure. 
These figures, in other respects uniform, wear the symbolic 
heads of various gods — the cow-head of Hathor, the ibis- 
head of Thoth, the hawk-head of llorus, the jackal-head 
of Annbis, etc. The cartouches contain the ordinary 
style and title of Raineses II (Ra-user-ma Sotep-en-Ra 
Rameses Mer-Amen), and are surmounted by a row of sun- 
disks. Under each sitting god is depicted the phonetic 
hieroglyph signifying Mer, or beloved. By means of this 
device, the whole frieze assumes the 
character of a connected legend and 
describes the king not only as beloved 
of Amen, but as Rameses beloved of 
Hathor, of Thoth, of Horns — in short, 
of each god depicted in the series. 

These gods excepted, the frieze is 
almost identical in design with the 
frieze in the first hall of the great 


The west, or principal wall, facing 
the entrance, is divided into two large 
subjects, each containing two figures the 
size of life. In the division to the right, 
Rameses II worships Ra; in the division 
to the left, he worships Amen-Ra; thus 
following the order observed in the other 
two temples, where the subjects relating 
to Amen-Ra occupy the left half and the subjects relating 
to Ra occupy the right half of each structure. An upright 
ensign surmounted by an exquisitely drawn and colored 
head of Horns Aroeris separates these two subjects. f In 


* I write of these walls, for convenience, as nortli, south, east and 
west, as onefis so accustomed to regard the position of buildings paral- 
lel with the river; but the present monument, as it is turned slightly 
southward round the angle of the rock, really stands southeast by 
east, instead of east and west like the large temple. 

\ Horus Aroeris. — " Celui-ci, qui semble avoir ete frere d'Osiris, 
porte une tete d'epervier coiffee du pschent. II est presque complete- 
ment identifie avec le soleil dans la plupart des lieux ou il etait 
adore, et il en est de nieme tres souvent pour Horus, fils d'Isis." — 


the subject to the right, Eaineses, wearing the red and 
white pschent, presents an offering of two small aryballos 
vases without handles. The vases are painted blue and 
are probably intended to represent lapis lazuli; a substance 
much prized by the ancient Egyptians and known to them 
by the name of khesbet. The king's necklace, armlets and 
bracelets are also blue. Ra sits enthroned, holding in one 
hand the "ankh," or crux ansata, emblem of life, r\ and in 
the other the greyhound-headed* scepter of the •*■ gods. 
He is hawk-headed and crowned with the sun- ^ disk 
and asp. His flesh is painted bright Venetian red. He wears 
a pectoral ornament; a rich necklace of alternate vermilion 
and black drops; and a golden-yellow belt studded with 
red and black stones. The throne, which stands on a blue 
platform, is painted in stripes of red, blue and white. The 
platform is decorated with a row of gold-colored stars and 
" ankh" emblems picked out with red. At the foot of 
this platform, between the god and the king, stands a 
small altar, on which are placed the usual blue lotus with 
red stalk and a spouted libation vessel. 

To the left of the Horus ensign, seated back to back 
with Ra upon a similar throne, sits Amen-Ra — of all Egyp- 
tian gods the most terrible to look upon — with his blue- 
black complexion, his corselet of golden chain-armor, 
and his head-dress of towering plumes. f Here the won- 

" Notice Sommaire des Monuments du Louvre," 1873. De Rouge. 
In the present instance, this god seems to have been identified with 

* " Le sceptre a tSte de levier, nomine a tort sceptre a tete de con- 
coupha, etait porte par les dieux." — "Die. d'Arch. Egyptienne: P. 
Pierret; Paris, 1875. 

f Amen of the blue complexion is the most ancient type of this 
god. Here he represents divine royalty, in which character his 
title is: " Lord of the Heaven, of the earth, of the waters and of 
the mountains." " Dans ce role de roi du monde, Amon a les chairs 
peintes en bleu pour indiquer sa nature celeste; et lorsqu'il porte le 
titre de Seigneur des Trones, il est^ represente assis, la couronne en 
tete: d'ordinaire il est debout." — "Etude des Monuments de Karnak." 
De Rouge. "Melanges d'Archeologie," vol. i, 1873. 

There were almost as many varieties of Amen in Egypt as there 
are varieties of the Madonna in Italy or Spain. There was an Amen 
of Thebes, an Amen of Elephantine, an Amen of Coptos, an Amen of 
Chemmis (Panopolis), an Amen of the Resurrection, Amen of the 
Dew, Amen of the Sun (Amen-Ra), Amen Self-created, etc. 
Amen and Khem were doubtless identical. It is an interesting fact 



derful preservation of the surface enabled one to see by 
what means the ancient artists were wont to produce this 
singular blue-black effect of color. It was evident that the 
flesh of the god had first been laid in with dead black, and 
then colored over with a 
dry, powdery cobalt-blue, 
through which the black 
remained partially visible. 
He carries in one hand the 
ankh,and in the other the 
greyhound-headed scepter. 
To him advances the king, 
his right hand uplifted, 
and in his left a small bas- 
ket containing a votive 
statuette of Ma, the god- 
dess of truth and justice. 
Ma is, however, shorn of 
her distinctive feather, and 
holds the jackal-headed 
staff instead of the custo- 
mary crux ansata. 

As portraiture, there is 
not much to be said for 
any of these heads of 
Barneses II ; but the feat 
tures bear a certain resem- 
blance to the well-known 
profile of the king ; the 
action of the figure is 
graceful and animated ; 
and the drawing displays 
in all its purity the firm 
and flowing line of Egyp- 
tian draughtsmanship. 

The dress of the king is 
very rich in color ; the mitershaped casque being of a 

that our English words, chemical, chemist, chemistry, etc., which 
the dictionaries derive from the Arabic al-kimia, may be traced back 
a step farther to the Panopolitan name of this most ancient god of 
the Egyptians, Khem (Gr. Pan; Latin, Priapus), the deity of plants 
and herbs and of the creative principle. A cultivated Egyptian would, 
doubtless, have regarded all these Aniens as merely local or symboli- 
cal types of a single deity. 



vivid cobalt-blue* picked out with gold color ; the belt, 
necklace, armlets, and bracelets, of gold, studded apparently 
with precious stones ; the apron, green and gold. Over 
the king's head hovers the sacred vulture, emblem of 
Maut, holding in her claws a kind of scutcheon upon 
which is depicted the crux ansata. 


The subjects represented on this wall are as follows: 
1. Rameses, life-size, presiding over a table of offerings. 
The king wears upon his head the Tclaft, or head-cloth, 
striped gold and white and decorated with the urseus. The 
table is piled in the usual way with flesh, fowl and flowers. 
The surface being here quite perfect, the details of these 
objects are seen to bq rendered with surprising minuteness. 
Even the tiny black feather-stumps of the plucked geese 
are given with the fidelity of Chinese art; while a red gash 
in the breast of each shows in what way it was slain for 
the sacrifice. The loaves are shaped precisely like the so- 
called " cottage loaves" of to-day and have the same little 
depression in the top, made by the baker's finger. Lotus 

* The material of this blue helmet, so frequently depicted on the 
monument?, may have been the Homeric Kuanos, about which so 
much doubt and conjecture have gathered, and which Mr. Gladstone 
supposes to have been a metal. (See " Juventus Mundi," chap, xv, 
p. 532.) A paragraph in The Academy (June 8, 1876) gives the fol- 
lowing particulars of certain perforated lamps of a " blue metallic 
substance," discovered at Hissarlik by Dr. Schliemann, and there 
found lying under the copper shields to which they had probably 
been attached. "An analytical examination by Landerer (Berg., 
Euttenm. Zeitung, xxxix, 430) has shown them to be sulphide of 
copper. The art of coloring the metal was known to the copper- 
smiths of Corinth, who plunged the heated copper into the fountain 
of Peirene. It appears not impossible that this was a sulphur spring, 
and that the blue color may have been given to the metal by plung- 
ing it in a heated state into the water and converting the surface into 
copper sulphide." 

It is to be observed that the Pharaohs are almost always repre- 
sented wearing this blue helmet in the battle-pieces and that it is 
frequently studded with gold rings. It must, therefore, have been 
of metal. If not of sulphureted copper, it may have been 
made of steel, which, in the well known instance of the butcher's 
sharpener, as well as in representations of certain weapons, is always 
painted blue upon the monuments. 



and papyrus blossoms in elaborate bouquet-holders crown 
the pile. 

2. Two tripods of light and elegant design, containing 

3. The bari, or sacred boat, painted gold-color, with the 
usual veil half-drawn across the naos, or shrine; the prow 
of the boat being richly carved, decorated with the uta* 
or symbolic eye and preceded by a large fan of ostrich 
feathers. The boat is peopled with small black figures, one 
of which kneels at the stern; while a sphinx couchant, with 
black body and human head, keeps watch at the prow. 
The sphinx symbolizes the king. 

On this wall, in a space between the sacred boat and the 
figure of Rameses occurs the- following inscription, sculpt- 
ured in high relief and elaborately colored: 

Note.— This inscription reads according to the 
numbering of the columns, beginning at 1 and 
reading to the right; then resuming at 7 and read- 
ing to the left. The spaces lettered A B in the 
lowest figure of column 5 are filled in with the two 
cartouches of Rameses II. 



_ o 


* "This eye, called uta, was extensively used by the Egyptians 
both as an ornament and amulet during life, and as a sepulchral 



Said by Thoth, the Lord of Sesennu, f [residing | in 
Amenheri:J " I give to thee an everlasting sovereignty over 
the two countries, son of [my] body, beloved, Ra-user- 
nia Sotep-en-Ra, acting as propitiator of thy Ka. I give 
to tbee myriads of festivals of Raineses, beloved of Amen, 
Ra-user-m a Sotep-en-Ra, as prince of every place where the 
sun-disk revolves. The beautiful living god, maker of 
beautiful things for [his] father Thoth, Lord of Sesennu 
[residing] in Amenheri. He made mighty and beautiful 
monuments forever facing the eastern horizon of heaven." 

The meaning of which is that Thoth, addressing 
Rameses II, then living and reigning, promises him a long 
life and many anniversaries of his jubilee, § in return for 
the works made in his (Thoth's) honor at Abou Simbel 
and elsewhere. 


At the upper end of this wall is depicted a life-size 
female figure wearing an elaborate blue head-dress sur- 
mounted by a disk and two ostrich feathers. She holds in 
her right hand the ankh, and in her left the jackal-headed 
scepter. This not being the scepter of a goddess and the 
head-dress resembling that of the queen as represented on 
the facade of the Temple of Hathor, I conclude we have 

amulet. They are found in the form of right eyes and left eyes, and 
they symbolize the eyes of Horus, as he looks to the north and 
south horizons in his passage from east to west, i. e., from sunrise to 

M. Grebaut, in his translation of a hymn to Amen-Ra, observes: 
" Le soleil man-hunt d'Orient en Occident eclaire de ses deux yeux 
les deux regions du Nord et du Midi." — " Revue Arch.," vol. xxv, 
1873; p. 387. 

* This inscription was translated for the first edition of this book 
by the late Dr. Birch; for the present translation I am indebted to 
the courtesy of E. A. Wallis Budge, Esq. 

f Sesennu — Eshmoon or Hermopolis. 

% Amenheri — Gebel Addeh. 

§ These jubilees, or festivals of thirty years, were religious jubilees 
in celebration of each thirtieth anniversary of the accession of the 
reigning Pharaoh. 


here a portrait of Nefertari corresponding to the portrait 
of Rameses on the opposite wall. Near her stands a table 
of offerings, on which, among other objects, are placed 
four vases of a rich blue color traversed by bands of yellow. 
They perhaps represent the kind of glass known as the 
false murrhine.* Each of these vases contains an object 
like a pine, the ground-color of which is deep yellow, pat- 
terned over with scale-like subdivisions in vermilion. We 
took them to represent grains of maize pyramidially piled. 

Lastly, a pendant to that on the opposite wall, comes 
the sacred bari. It is, however, turned the reverse way, 
with its prow toward the east; and it rests upon an altar, 
in the center of which are the cartouches of Rameses II 
and a small hieroglyphic inscription signifying: '*' Beloved, 
by Amen-Ra, king of the gods, resident in the land of 

Beyond this point, at the end nearest the northeast 
corner of the chamber, the piled sand conceals whatever 
else the wall may contain in the way of decoration. 


If the east wall is decorated like the others (which may 
be taken for granted), its tableaux and inscriptions are 
hidden behind the sand which here rises to the ceiling. 
The doorway also occurs in this wall, occupying a space 
four feet three and one-half inches in width on the inner 

One of the most interesting incidents connected with the 
excavation of this little adytum remains yet to be told. 

I have described the female figure at the upper end of 
the north wall and how she holds in her right hand the 
ankh and in her left hand the jackal-headed scepter. The 
hand that holds the ankh hangs by her side; the hand that 
holds the scepter is half-raised. Close under this upraised 
hand, at a height of between three and four feet from the 
actual level of the floor, there were visible upon the un- 

* There are, in the British Museum, some bottles and vases of this 
description, dating from the eighteenth dynasty; see Case E, 
Second Egyptian Room. They are of dark-blue translucent glass, 
veined with waving lines of opaque white and yellow. 

f Kenus — Nubia. 


colored surface of the original stucco several lines of free- 
hand writing. This writing was laid on, apparently, with 
the brush, and the ink, if ever it had been black, had now 
become brown. Five long lines and three shorter lines were 
uninjured. Below these were traces of other fragmentary 
lines, almost obliterated by the sand. 

We knew at once that this quaint faint writing must be 
in either the hieratic or demotic hand. We could dis- 
tinguish, or thought we could distinguish, in its vague out- 
lines of forms already familiar to us in the hieroglyphs — 
abstracts, as it were, of birds and snakes and boats. There 
could be no doubt, at all events, that the thing was curious; 
and we set it down in our own minds as the writing of either 
the architect or decorator of the place. 

Anxious to make, if possible, an exact fac-simile of this 
inscription, the writer copied it three times. The last and 
best of these copies is here reproduced in photolithography, 
with a translation from the pen of the late Dr. Birch. (See 
p. 317.) We all know how difficult it is to copy correctly in 
a language of which one is ignorant; and the tiniest curve or 
dot omitted is fatal to the sense of these ancient characters. 
In the present instance, notwithstanding the care with 
which the transcript was made, there must still have been 
errors; for it has been found undecipherable in places; 
and in these places there occur inevitable lacunae. 

Enough, however, remains to show that the lines were 
written, not as we had supposed by the artist, but by a 
distinguished visitor, whose name unfortunately is illegible. 
This visitor was a son of the Prince of Kush, or as it is 
literally written, the Royal Son of Kush; that being the 
official title of the Govornor of Ethiopia.* As there were 
certainly eight governors of Ethiopia during the reign of 
Barneses II (and perhaps more, whose names have not 
reached us), it is impossible even to hazard a guess at the 

* Governors of Ethiopia bore this title, even though they did not 
themselves belong to the family of Pharaoh. 

It is a curious fact that one of the governors of Ethiopia during 
the reign of Eameses II was called Mes, or Messou, signifying son, 
or child — which is in fact Mosi s. Now the Moses of the Bible was 
adopted by Pharaoh's daughter, " became to her as a son," was in- 
structed in the wisdom of the Egyptians, and married a Ku shite 
woman, black but comely. It would perhaps be too much to specu- 
late on the possibility of his having held the office of Governor, or 
Roval Son of Kush. 


parentage of our visitor. We gather, however, that he 
was sent hither to construct a road; also that he built 
transport boats; and that he exercised priestly functions in 
that part of the temple which was inaccessible to all but 
dignitaries of the sacerdotal order. 



Translated by 8. Birch, Esq., LL.D., etc. 

thy son having . . . thou hast conquered the worlds 
at' once Amnion Ra-Harmachis, \ the god at the first time,* who 
gives life health, and a time of many praises to the groom 
of the Khen,** son of the Royal son of Cush.ft Opener 
of the road, Maker of transport boats, Giver of instructions to 
his lord . . . Amenshaa . . . 

ft e Ammon Ra, the sun god, in conjuction or identification with Har- 
em-a x\\, of Horus-on-the-Horizon, another solar deity. 
* The primaeval god. 
** Inner place, or sanctuary, 
tt Ethiopia. 


Site, inscriptions, and decorations taken into account, 
there yet remains this question to be answered : 

What was the nature and character of the monument 
just described ? 

It adjoined a pylon, and, as we have seen, consisted of a 
vaulted pronaos in crude brick, and an adytum excavated 
in the rock. On the walls of this adytum are depicted 
various gods with their attributes, votive offerings, and 
portraits of the king performing acts of adoration. The 
bari, or ark, is also represented upon the north and south 
walls of the adytum. These are unquestionably the ordi- 
nary features of a temple, or chapel. 

On the other hand, there must be noted certain objections 
to these premises. It seemed to us that the pylon was 
built first and that the south boundary wall of the pronaos, 
being a subsequent erection, was supported against the 
slope of the pylon as far as where the spring of the vault- 
ing began. Besides which, the pylon would have been a 
disproportionately large adjunct to a little monument, the 
entire length of which, from the doorway of the pronaos to 
the west wall of the adytum, was less than forty-seven feet. 
We therefore concluded that the pylon belonged to the 
large temple and was erected at the side instead of in front 
of the facade, on account of the very narrow space between 
the mountain and the river.* 

The pylon at Kom Ombo is, probably for the same 
reason, placed at the side of the temple and on a lower 
level. To those who might object that a brick pylon 
would hardly be attached to a temple of the first class, I 
would observe that the remains of a similar pylon are still 
to be seen at the top of what was once the landing-place 
leading to the great temple at Wady Ilalfeh. It may, 
therefore, be assumed that this little monument, although 
connected with the pylon by means of a doorway and stair- 
case, was an excrescence of later date. 

Being an excrescence, however, was it, in the strict sense 
of the word, a temple? 

Even this seems to be doubtful. In the adytum there is 

* At about an equal distance to the north of the great temple, on 
the verge of the bank, is a shapeless block of brick ruin, which 
might possibly, if investigated, turn out to be the remains of a 
second pylon corresponding to this which we partially uncovered to 
the south. 


no trace of any altar — no fragment of stone dais or sculpt- 
ured image — no granite shrine, as at Philae — no sacred 
recess, as at Denderah. The standard of Horns Aroeris, 
engraved on page 311, occupies the center place upon the 
wall facing the entrance, and occupies it, not as a tutelary 
divinity, but as a decorative device to separate the two large 
subjects already described. Again, the gods represented in 
these subjects are Ra and Amen Ra, the tutelary gods of the 
great temple; but if we turn to the dedicatory inscription on 
page 313 we find that Thoth, whose image never occurs at all 
upon the walls* (unless as one of the little gods in the cor- 
nice), is really the presiding deity of the place. It is he who 
welcomes Rameses and his offerings; who acknowledges the 
"glory" given to him by his beloved son; and who, in 
return for the great and good monuments erected in his 
honor, promises the king that he shall be given "an ever- 
lasting sovereignty over the two countries." 

Now Thoth was, par excellence, the God of Letters. He 
is styled the Lord of Divine Words ; the Lord of the 
Sacred Writings; the Spouse of Truth. He personifies 
the Divine Intelligence. He is the patron of art and 
science; and he is credited with the invention of the 
alphabet. In one of the most interesting of Champollion's 
letters from Thebes, f he relates how, in the fragmentary 
ruins of the western extremity of the Ramesseum, he found 
a doorway adorned with the figures of Thoth and Safek ; 
Thoth as the God of Literature, and Safek inscribed with 
the title of Lady President of the Hall of Books. At 
Denderah there is a chamber especially set apart for the 
sacred writings, and its walls are sculptured all over with 
a catalogue raisonnee of the manuscript treasures of the 
temple. At Edfu, a kind of closet built up between two 
of the pillars of the hall of assembly was reserved for the 
same purpose. Every temple, in short, had its library; 
and as the Egyptian books — being written on papyrus or 
leather, rolled up, and stored in coffers — occupied but 
little space, the rooms appropriated to this purpose were 
generally small. 

It was Dr. Birch's opinion that our little monument 

* He may, however, be represented on the north wall, where it is 
covered by the sand- heap. 
\ Letter xiv, p. 235. " Nouvelle Ed.," Paris, 1868. 


may have been the library of the Great Temple of Abort 
Simbel. This being the case, the absence of an altar, and 
the presence of Ra and Amen-Ra in the two principal 
tableaux, are sufficiently accounted for. The tutelary 
deity of the great temple and the patron deity of Rameses 
II would naturally occupy, in this subsidiary structure, the 
same places that they occupy in the principal one ; while 
the library, though in one sense the domain of Thoth, is 
still under the protection of the gods of the temple to 
which it is an adjunct. 

I do not believe we once asked ourselves how it came to 
pass that the place had remained hidden all these ages 
long; yet its very freshness proved how early it must have 
been abandoned. If it had been open in the time of the 
successors of Rameses II, they would probably, as else- 
where, have interpolated inscriptions and cartouches, or 
have substituted their own cartouches for those of the 
founder. If it had been open in the time of the Ptolemies 
and Caesars, traveling Greeks and learned Romans and 
strangers from Byzantium and the cities of Asia Minor 
would have cut their names on the door-jambs and scrib- 
bled ex-votos on the walls. If it had been open in the 
days of Nubian Christianity, the sculptures would have 
been coated with mud and washed with lime and daubed 
with pious caricatures of St. George and the holy family. 
But we found it intact — as perfectly preserved as a tomb 
that had lain hidden under the rocky bed of the desert. 
For these reasons I am inclined to think that it became 
inaccessible shortly after it was completed. There can be 
little doubt that a wave of earthquake passed, during the 
reign of Rameses II, along the left bank of the Nile, be- 
ginning possibly above Wady Halfeh, and extending at 
least as far north as Gerf Ilossayn. Such a shock might 
have wrecked the temple at Wady Halfeh, as it dislocated 
the pylon of Wady Sabooah. and shook the built-out porti- 
coes of Derr and Gerf Ilossayn ; which last four temples, 
as they do not, I believe, show signs of having been added 
to by later Pharaohs, may be supposed to have been 
abandoned in consequence of the ruin which had befallen 
them. Here, at all events, it shook the mountain of the 
great temple, cracked one of the Osiride columns of the 
first hall,* shattered one of the four great colossi, more or 

* That this shock of earthquake occurred during the lifetime of 


less injured the other three, flung down the great brick 
pylon, reduced the pronaosof the library to a heap of ruin, 
and not only brought down part of the ceiling of the exca- 
vated adytum, but rent open a vertical fissure in the rock 
some twenty or twenty-five feet in length. 

With so much irreparable damage done to the great 
temple, and with so much that was reparable calling for 
immediate attention, it is no wonder that these brick 
buildings were left to their fate. The priests would have 
rescued the sacred books from among the ruins, and then 
the place would have been abandoned. 

So much by way of conjecture. As hypothesis, a suf- 
ficient reason is perhaps suggested for the wonderful state 
of preservation in which the little chamber had been 
handed down to the present time. A rational explana- 
tion is also offered for the absence of later cartouches, of 
Greek and Latin ex-votos, of Christian emblems, and of 
subsequent mutilation of every kind. For, save that one 
contemporary visitor — the sou of the Royal Son of Kush — 
the place contained, when we opened it, no record of any 
passing traveler, no defacing autograph of tourist, archae- 
ologist, or scientific explorer. Neither Belzoni nor Cham- 
pollion had found it out. E\en Lepsius had passed it by. 

It happens sometimes that hidden things, which in them- 
selves are easy to find, escape detection because no one 
thinks of looking for them. But such was not the case in 
this present instance. Search had been made here again 
and again; and even quite recently. 

Rameses II seems to be proved by the fact that, where the Osiride 
column is cracked across, a wall has been built up to support the 
two last pillars to the left at the upper end of the great hall, on 
which wall is a large stela covered with an elaborate hieroglyphic 
inscription, dating from the thirty-fifth year, and the thirteenth day 
of the month of Tybi, of the reign of Rameses II. The right arm 
of the external colossus, to the right of the great doorway, has also 
been supported by the introduction of an arm to his throne, built up 
of square blocks; this being the only arm to any of the thrones. Miss 
Martineau detected a restoration of part of the lower jaw of the 
northernmost colossus, and also a part of the dress of one of the 
Osiride statues in the great hall. 1 have in my possession a photo- 
graph taken at a time when the sand was several feet lower than at 
present, which shows that the right leg of the northernmost colossus 
is also a restoration on a gigantic scale, being built up, like the 
throne-arm, in great blocks, and finished, most probably, afterward. 


It seems that when the khedive* entertains distinguished 
guests and sends them in gorgeous dahabeeyahs up the 
Nile, he grants them a virgin mound, or so many square 
feet of a famous necropolis ; lets them dig as deep as they 
please; and allows them to keep whatever they may find. 
Sometimes he sends out scouts to beat the ground ; and 
then a tomb is found and left unopened, and the illustrious 
visitor is allowed to discover it. When the scouts are un- 
lucky, it may even sometimes happen that an old tomb is 
re-stocked ; carefully closed up ; and then, with all the 
charm of unpremeditation, re-opened a day or two after. 

Now Sheik Kashwan Ebn Hassan el Kashef told us that 
in 1869, when the empress of the French was at Abou 
Simbel, and again when the Prince and Princess of Wales 
came up in 1872, after the prince's illness, he received 
strict orders to find some hitherto undiscovered tomb, f in 
order that the khedive's guests might have the satisfaction 
of opening it. But, he added, although he left no likely 
place untried among the rocks and valleys on both sides of 
the river, he could find nothing. To have unearthed such 
a birbeh as this would have done him good service with 
the government, and have insured him a splendid back- 
shish from prince or empress. As it was, he was repri- 
manded for want of diligence, and he believed himself to 
have been out of favor ever since. 

I may here mention — in order to have done with this 
subject — that besides being buried outside to a depth of 
about eight feet, the adytum had been partially filled inside 
by a gradual infiltration of sand from above. This can 
only have accumulated at the time when the old sand-drift 
was at its highest. That drift, sweeping in one unbroken 
line across the front of the great temple, must at one time 
have risen here to a height of twenty feet above the pres- 
ent level. From thence the sand had found its way down 
the perpendicular fissure already mentioned. In the cor- 
ner behind the door, the sand-pile rose to the ceiling, in 
shape just like the deposit at the bottom of an hour-glass. 
I am informed by the painter that when the top of the 

* This refers to the ex-khedive, Ismail Pasha, who ruled Egypt 
at the time when this book was written and published. [Note to 
second edition.] 

f There are tombs in some of the ravines behind the temples, 
which, however, we did not see, 


doorway was found and an opening first effected, the sand 
poured out from within, like water escaping from an 
opened sluice. 

Here, then, is positive proof (if proof were needed) that 
we were first to enter the place, at all events since the 
time when the great sand-drift rose as high as the top of 
the fissure. 

The painter wrote his name and ours, with the date 
(February 10, 1874), on a space of blank wall over the in- 
side of the doorway; and this was the only occasion upon 
which any of us left our names upon an Egyptian monu- 
ment. On arriving at Korosko, where there is a post- 
office, he also dispatched a letter to the " Times," briefly 
recording the facts here related. That letter, which 
appeared on the 18th of March following, is reprinted 
in the appendix at the end of this book. 

I am told that our names are partially effaced and that 
the wall-paintings which we had the happiness of admiring 
in all their beauty and freshness are already much injured. 
Such is the fate of every Egyptian monument, great or 
small. The tourist carves it all over with names and 
dates and in some instances with caricatures. The student 
of Egyptology, by taking wet-paper "squeezes," sponges 
away every vestige of tiie original color. The "collector" 
buys and carries off everything of value that he can get; 
and the Arab steals for him. The work of destruction, 
meanwhile, goes on apace. There is no one to prevent it; 
there is no one to discourage it. Every day, more inscrip- 
tions are mutilated — more tombs are rifled — more paintings 
and sculptures are defaced. The Louvre contains a full- 
length portrait of Seti I, cut out bodily from the walls of 
his sepulcher in the Valley of the Tombs of the Kings. The 
museums of Berlin, of Turin, of Florence, are ' rich in 
spoils which tell their own lamentable tale. When science 
leads the way, is it wonderful that ignorance should follow? 




There are fourteen temples between Abou Simbel and 
Philse; to say nothing of grottoes, tombs and other ruins. 
As a rule, people begin to get tired of temples about this 
time and vote them too plentiful. Meek travelers go 
through them as a duty; but the greater number rebel. 
Our happy couple, I grieve to say, went over to the major- 
ity. Dead to shame, they openly proclaimed themselves 
bored. They even skipped several temples. 

For myself, I was never bored by them. Though they 
had been twice as many, I should not have wished them 
fewer. Miss Martineau tells how, in this part of the 
river, she was scarcely satisfied to sit down to breakfast 
■without having first explored a temple; but I could have 
breakfasted, dined, supped on temples. My appetite for 
them was insatiable and grew with what it fed upon. I 
went over them all. I took notes of them all. I sketched 
them every one. 

I may as well say at once that I shall reproduce but few 
of those notes and only some of those sketches in the 
present volume. If, surrounded by their local associations, 
these ruins fail to interest many who travel far to see them, 
it is not to be supposed that they would interest readers at 
home. Here and there, perhaps, might be one who would 
care to pore with me over every broken sculpture; to spell 
out every half-legible cartouche; to trace through Greek 
and Roman influences (which are nowhere more conspicuous 
than in these Nubian buildings) the slow deterioration of the 
Egyptian style. But the world for the most part reserves 
itself, and rightly, for the great epochs and the great names 
of the past; and because it has not yet had too much of 
Karnak, of Abou Simbel, of the pyramids, it sets slight 
store by those minor monuments which record the periods 
of foreign rule and the decline of native art. For these 


reasons, therefore, I propose to dismiss very briefly many 
places upon which I bestowed hours of delightful labor. 

We left Abou Simbel just as the moon was rising on 
the evening of the 18th of February, and dropped 
down with the current for three or four miles before moor- 
ing for the night. At six next morning the men began 
rowing; and at half-past eight the heads of the colossi 
were still looking placidly after us across a ridge of inter- 
vening hills. They were then more than five miles distant 
in a direct line; but every feature was still distinct in the 
early daylight. One went up again and again, as long as 
they remained in sight, and bade good-by to them at last 
with that same heartache which comes of a farewell view of 
the Alps. 

When I say that we were seventeen days getting from 
Abou Simbel to Philae, and that we had the wind against 
us from sunrise till sunset almost every day, it will be seen 
that our progress was of the slowest. To those who were 
tired of temples, and to the crew who were running short 
of bread, these long days of lying up under the bank, or of 
rocking to and fro in the middle of the river, were dreary 

Slowly but surely, however, the hard-won miles go by. 
Sometimes the barren desert hems us in to right and left, 
with never a blade of green between the rock and the river. 
Sometimes, as at Tosko,* we come upon an open tract, 
where there are palms and castor-berry plantations and 
corn-fields alive with quail. The idle man goes ashore at 
Tosko with his gun, while the little lady and the writer 
climb a solitary rock about two hundred feet above the 
river. The bank shelves here, and a crescent-like wave of 
inundation, about three miles in length, overflows it every 
season. From this height one sees exactly how far the 
wave goes, and how it must make a little bay when it is 
there. Now it is a bay of barley, full to the brim, and 
rippling to the breeze. Beyond the green comes the desert; 
the one defined against the other as sharply as water against 
land. The desert looks wonderfully old beside the young 
green of the corn, and the Nile flows wide among sand- 
banks, like a tidal river near the sea. The village, squared 

* Tosko is on the eastern bank, and not, as in Keith Johnston's 
map, on the west, 


off in parallelograms like a cattle market, lies mapped out 
below. A field-glass shows that the houses are simply 
cloistered court-yards roofed with palm-thatch; the sheik's 
house being larger than the rest, with the usual open space 
and spreading sycamore in front. There are women mov- 
ing to and fro in the court-yards, and husbandmen in the 
castor-berry patches. A funeral with a train of wailers 
goes out presently toward the burial-ground on the edge 
of the desert. The idle man, a slight figure with a veil 
twisted round his hat, wades, half-hidden, through the 
barley, signaling his whereabouts every now and then by a 
puff of white smoke. A cargo-boat, stripped and shorn, 
comes floating down the river, making no visible progress. 
A native felucca, carrying one tattered brown sail, goes 
swiftly up with the wind at a pace that will bring her to 
Abou Simbel before nightfall. Already she is past the 
village; and those black specks yonder, which we had 
never dreamed were crocodiles, have slipped off into the 
water at her approach. And now she is far in the dis- 
tance — that glowing, illimitable distance — traversed by long 
silvery reaches of river, and ending in a vast flat, so blue 
and aerial that, but for some three or four notches of purple 
peaks on the horizon, one could scarcely discern the point 
at which land and sky melt into each other. Ibrim comes 
next; then Derr; then Wady Sabooyah. At Ibrim, as at 
Derr, there ars "fair " families, whose hideous light hair 
and blue eyes (grafted on brown-black skins) date back to 
Bosnian forefathers of three hundred and sixty years ago. 
These people give themselves airs, and are the haute 
noblesse of the place. The men are lazy and quarrelsome. 
The women trail longer robes, wear more beads and rings, 
and are altogether more unattractive and castor-oily than 
any we have seen elsewhere. They keep slaves, too. We 
saw these unfortunates trotting at the heels of their mis- 
tresses, like dogs. Knowing slavery to be officially 
illegal in the dominions of the khedive, the M. B.'s 
applied to a dealer, who offered them an Abyssinian girl 
for ten pounds. This useful article — warranted a bargain 
— was to sweep, wash, milk, and churn; but was not equal 
to cooking. The M. B.'s, it is needless to add, having 
verified the facts, retired from the transaction. 

At Derr we pay a farewell visit to the temple ; and at 
Amada, arriving toward close of day, see the great view 
for the last time in the glory of sunset. 


And now, though the north wind blows persistently, it 
gets hotter every day. The crocodiles like it, and come 
out to bask in the sunshine. Called up one morning in 
the middle of breakfast we see two — a little one and a big 
one — on a sand-bank near by. The men rest upon their 
oars. The boat goes with the stream. No one speaks; no 
one moves. Breathlessly and in dead silence, we drift on 
till we are close beside them. The big one is rough and 
black, like the trunk of a London elm, and measures full 
eighteen feet in length. The little one is pale and green- 
ish and glistens like glass. All at once the old one starts, 
doubles itself up for a spring, and disappears with a tre- 
mendous splash. But the little one, apparently uncon- 
scious of danger, lifts its tortoise-like head and eyes us 
sidewise. Presently some one whispers ; and that whisper 
breaks the spell. Our little crocodile flings up its tail, 
plunges down the bank, and is gone in a moment. 

The crew could not understand how the idle man, after 
lying in wait for crocodiles at Abou Simbel, should let this 
rare chance pass without a shot. But we had heard since 
then of so much indiscriminate slaughter at the second 
cataract, that he was resolved to bear no part in the exter- 
mination of those old historic reptiles. That a sportsman 
should wish for a single trophy is not unreasonable; but 
that scores of crack shots should go up every winter kill- 
ing and wounding these wretched brutes at an average rate 
of from twelve to eighteen per gun, is mere butchery and 
cannot be too strongly reprehended. Year by year, the 
creatures become shyer and fewer ; and the day is prob- 
ably not far distant when a crocodile will be as rarely 
seen below Semneh as it is now rarely seen below 

The thermometer stands at 85° in the saloon of the 
Philre, when we come one afternoon to Wady Sabooah, 
where there is a solitary temple drowned in sand. It 
was approached once by an avenue of sphinxes and stand- 
ing colossi, now shattered and buried. The roof of the 
pronaos, if ever it was roofed, is gone. The inner halls 
and the sanctuary — all excavated in the rock— are choked 
and impassable. Only the propylon stands clear of sand; 
and that, massive as it is, looks as if one touch of a bat- 
tering-ram would bring it to the ground. Every huge 
stone in it is loose. Every block in the cornice seems 


tottering in its place. In all this we fancy we recognize 
the work of our Abou Simbel earthquake.* 

At Wady Sabooah we see a fat native. The fact claims 
record, because it is so uncommon. A stalwart, middle- 
aged man, dressed in a tattered kilt and carrying a palm- 
staff in his hand, he stands before us the living double of 
the famous wooden statue at Boulak. He is followed by 
his two wives and three or four children, all bent upon 
trade. The women have trinkets, the boys a live chame- 
leon and a small stuffed crocodile for sale. AVhile the 

painter is bargaining for the crocodile and L for a 

nose-ring, the writer makes accquaintance with a pair of 
self-important hoopoes, who live in the pylon and evidently 
regard it as a big nest of their own building. They sit 
observing me curiously while I sketch, nodding their 
crested polls and chattering disparagingly, like a couple of 
critics. By and by comes a small black bird with a white 
breast and sings deliriously. It is like no little bird that 
I have ever seen before ; but the song that it pours so lav- 
ishly from its tiny throat is as sweet and brilliant as a ca- 

Powerless against the wind, the dahabeeyah lies idle day 
after day in the sun. Sometimes, when we chance to be 
near a village, the natives squat on the bank and stare at 
us for hours together. The moment any one appears on 
deck they burst into a chorus of " Backshish !" There is 
but one way to get rid of them, and that is to sketch them. 
The effect is instantaneous. With a good-sized block and 
a pencil, a whole village may be put to flight at a moment's 
notice. If, on the other hand, one wishes for a model, the 
difficulty is insuperable. The painter tried in vain to get 
some of the women and girls (not a few of whom were 
really pretty) to sit for their portraits. I well remember 

* This is one of the temples erected by Rameses the Great, and, I 
believe, not added to by any of his successors. The colossi, the 
Osiride columns, the sphinxes (now battered out of all human sem- 
blance) were originally made in his image. The cartouches are all 
his, and in one of the inner chambers there is a list of his little 
family. All these chambers were accessible till three or four years 
ago, when a party of German travelers carried off some sculptured 
tablets of great archaeological interest; after which act of spoliation 
the entrance was sanded up by ordrer of Mariette Bey. See, also, 
with regard to the probable date of the earthquake at tfiis place, 
chap, xviii, p. 321, 


one haughty beauty, shaped and draped like a Juno, who stood 
on the bank one morning, scornfully watching all that was 
done on deck. She carried a flat basket back-handed; and 
her arms were covered with bracelets and her fingers with 
rings. Her little girl, in a Madame Nubia fringe, clung 
to her skirts, half-wondering, half-frightened. The 
painter sent out an ambassador plenipotentiary to offer her 
anything from a sixpence to half a sovereign if she would 
only stand like that for half an hour. The manner of her 
refusal was grand. She drew her shawl over her face, took 
her child's hand, and stalked away like an offended god- 
dess. The writer, meanwhile, hidden behind a curtain, 
had snatched a tiny sketch from the cabin-window. 

On the western bank, somewhere between Wady Sabooah 
and Maharrakeh, in a spot quite bare of vegetation, stand 
the ruins of a fortified town which is neither mentioned 
by Murray nor entered in the maps. It is built on a base of 
reddish rock and commands the river and the desert. The 
painter and writer, explored it one afternoon, in the course 
of a long ramble. Climbing first a steep slope strewn with 
masonry, we came to the remains of a stone gateway. Find- 
ing this impassable, we made our way through a breach in the 
battlemented wall, and thence up a narrow road down which 
had been poured a cataract of debris. Skirting a ruined post- 
ern at the top of this road, we found ourselves in a close laby- 
rinth of vaulted arcades built of crude brick and lit at short 
intervals by openings in the roof. These strange streets — for 
they were streets — were lined on either side by small dwell- 
ings built of crude brick on stone foundations. We went into 
some of the houses — mere ruined courts and roofless cham- 
bers, in which were no indications of hearths or staircases. 
In one lay a fragment of stone column about fourteen inches 
in diameter. The air in these ancient streets was foul and 
stagnant and the ground was everywhere heaped with 
fragments of black, red and yellowish pottery, like the 
shards of Elephantine and Philae. A more desolate place 
in a more desolate situation I never saw. It looked as if 
it had been besieged, sacked and abandoned, a thousand 
years ago ; which is probably under the mark, for the 
charactor of the pottery would seem to point to the period 
of Eoman occupation. Noting how the brick super- 
structures were reared on apparently earlier masonry, we 
concluded that the beginnings of this place were probably 


Egyptian and the later work Roman. The marvel was 
that any town should have been built in so barren a spot, 
there being not so much as an inch-wide border of lentils 
for a mile or more between the river and the desert. 

Having traversed the place from end to end, we came 
out through another breach on the westward side, and, 
thinking to find a sketchable point of view inland, struck 
down toward the plain. In order to reach this, one first 
must skirt a deep ravine which divides the rock of the 
citadel from the desert. Following the brink of this 
ravine to the point at which it falls into the level, we 
found to our great surprise that we were treading the 
banks of an extinct river. 

It was full of sand now; but beyond all ojiestion it had 
once been full of water. It came, evidently, from the 
mountains over toward the northwest. We could trace 
its windings for a long way across the plain, thence 
through the ravine and on southward in a line parallel 
with the Nile. Here, beneath our feet, were the water- 
worn rocks through which it had fretted its way; and 
yonder, half-buried in sand, were the bowlders it had 
rounded and polished and borne along in its course. I 
doubt, however, if when it was a river of water this 
stream was half as beautiful as now, when it is a river of 
sand. It was turbid then, no doubt, and charged with 
sediment. Now it is more golden than Pactolus and 
covered with ripples more playful and undulating than 
were ever modeled by Canaletti's pencil. 

Supposing yonder town to have been founded in the 
days when the river was a river and the plain fertile and 
well watered, the mystery of its position is explained. It 
was protected in front by the Nile and in the rear by the 
ravine and the river. But how long ago was this? Here, 
apparently, was an independent stream, taking its rise 
among the Libyan mountains. It dated back, conse- 
quently, to a time when those barren hills collected and 
distributed water — that is to say, to a time when it used to 
rain in Nubia. And that time must have been before the 
rocky barrier broke down at Silsilis, in the old days when 
the land of Kush flowed with milk and honey.* 

* Not only near this nameless town, but in many other parts 
between Abou Siinbel and Philse, we found the old alluvial soil 


It would rain even now in Nubia if it could. That 
same evening, when the sun was setting, we saw a fan-like 
drift of dappled cloud miles high above our heads, melting, 
as it seemed, in fringes of iridescent vapor. We could 
distinctly see those fringes forming, wavering and evapo- 
rating; unable to descend as rain, because dispersed at a 
high altitude by radiated heat from the desert. This, with 
one exception,' was the only occasion on which I saw 
clouds in Nubia. 

Coming back, we met a solitary native, with a string of 
beads in his hand and a knife up his sleeve. He followed 
us for a long way, volunteering a but half-intelligible story 
about some unknown birbeh* in the desert. We asked 
where it was and he pointed up the course of our unknown 

"You have seen it?" said the painter. 

"Mai-rat ketir" (''many times"). 

" How far is it ?" 

"One day's march in the hagar" (" desert "). 

"And have no Ingleezeh ever been to look for it ?" 

He shook his head at first, not understanding the ques- 
tion; then looked grave and held up one finger. 

Our stock of Arabic was so small and his so interlarded 
with Kensee, that we had great difficulty in making out 
what he said next. We gathered, however, that some 
howadji, traveling alone and on foot, had once gone in 
search of this birbeh and never come back. Was he 
lost? Was he killed? Who could say? 

" It was a long time ago," said the man with the beads. 
"It was a long time ago and he took no guide with him." 

We would have given much to trace the river to its 
source and search for this unknown temple in the desert. 
But it is one of the misfortunes of this kind of traveling 
that one cannot easily turn aside from the beaten track. 
The hot season is approaching; the river is running low; 
the daily cost of the dahabeeyah is exorbitant ; and, in 
Nubia, where little or nothing can be bought in the way of 
food, the dilatory traveler risks starvation. It was some- 
thing, however, to have seen with one's own eyes that the 

lying as high as from twenty to thirty feet above the level of the 
present inundations. 
* Ar. Birbeh, temple. 


Nile, instead of flowing for a distance of twelve hundred 
miles unfed by any affluent, had here received the waters of 
a tributary.* 

To those who have a south breeze behind them the tem- 
ples must now follow in quick succession. We, however, 
achieved them by degrees and rejoiced when our helpless 
dahabeeyah lay within rowing reach of anything worth 
seeing. Thus we pull down one day to Maharrakeh — in 
itself a dull ruin but picturesquely desolate. Seen as one 
comes up the bank on landing, two parallel rows of columns 
stand boldly up against the sky, supporting a ruined entabla- 
ture. In the foreground a few stunted D6m palms starve 
in an arid soil. The barren desert closes in the distance. 

We are beset hereby an insolent crowd of savage-looking 
men and boys and impudent girls with long frizzy hair and 
Nubian fringes, who pester us with beads and pebbles; 
dance, shout, slap their legs and clap their hands in our 
faces; and pelt us when we go away. One ragged warrior 
brandishes an antique brass-mounted firelock full six feet 
long in the barrel ; and some of the others carry slender 

The temple — a late Roman structure — would seem to 
have been wrecked by an earthquake before it was com- 
pleted. The masonry is all in the rough — pillars as they 
came from the quarry; capitals blocked out, waiting for the 
carver. These unfinished ruins — of which every stone 
looks new, as if the work was still in progress — affect one's 
imagination strangely. On a fallen wall south of the por- 
ticof the idle man detected some remains of a Greek inscrip- 

* "The Nile receives its last tributary, the Atbara, in Lat. 17° 42' 
north, at the northern extremity of the peninsular tract anciently 
called the Island of Meroe, and thence flows north (a single stream 
without the least accession) through twelve degrees of latitude; or, 
following its winding course, at least twelve hundred miles to the sea." 
— " Blackie's Imperial Gazetteer," 1861. A careful survey of the 
country would probably bring to light the dry beds of many more 
such tributaries as the one described above. 

f Of this wall, Burckhardt notices that "it lias fallen down, appar- 
ently from some sudden and violent concussion, as the stones are 
lying on the ground in layers, as when placed in the wall; a proof 
that they must have fallen all at once." — "Travels in Nubia:" Ed. 
1819, p .100. But he has not observed the inscription which is in 
large characters, and consists of three lines on three separate layers, 
of stones. The idle man copied the original upon the spot, which 


tion ; but for hieroglyphic characters or cartouches, by 
which to date the building, we looked in vain.* 

Dakkeh comes next in order; then Gerf Hossayn, Den- 
door and Kalebsheh. Arriving at Dakkeh soon after sun- 
rise we find the whole population — screaming, pushing, 
chattering, laden with eggs, pigeons and gourds for sale — 
drawn up to receive us. There is a large sand island in the 
way here, so we moor about a mile above the temple. 

We first saw the twin pylons of Dakkeh some weeks ago 
from the deck of the Philse and we then likened them to 
the majestic towers of Edfa. Approaching them now bv 
land, we are surprised to find them so small. It is a brill- 
iant, hot morning; and our way lies by the river, between 
the lentil-slope and the castor-berry patches. There are 
flocks of pigeons flying low overhead; barking dogs and 
crowing cocks in the village close by; and all over the path 
hundreds of beetles — real live scarabs, black as coal and 
busy as ants— rolling their clay pellets up from the water's 
edge to the desert. If we were to examine a score or so of 
these pellets we should here and there find one that con- 
tained no eggs ; for it is a curious fact that the scarab- 
beetle makes and rolls her pellets, whether she has an egg 
to deposit or not. The female beetle, though assisted by 
the male, is said to do the heavier share of the pellet- 
rolling; and if evening comes on before her pellet is safely 
stowed away, she will sleep, holding it with her feet all 
night, and resume her labor in the morning, f 

copy has since been identified with an ex-voto of a Roman soldier 
published in Boeckh's " Corpus Inscr. Glrsec.," of which the follow- 
ing is a translation: 

" The vow of Verecundus the soldier, and his most pious parents, 
and (Jains his little brother, and the rest of his brethren." 

* A clew, however, might possibly be found to the date. There is 
a rudely sculptured tableau— the only piece of sculpture in the place 
— on a detached wall near the standing columns. It represents Isis 
worshiped by a youth in a short toga. Both figures are lumpish 
and ill-modeled; and Isis, seated under a conventional fig-tree, wears 
her hair erected in stiff rolls over her forehead, like a diadem. It 
is the face and stiffly dressed hair of Marciana, the sister of Trajan, 
as shown upon the well-known coin engraved in Smith's " Die. of 
Greek and Roman Biography," vol. ii, p. 939. Maharrakeh is the 
Hiera Sycaminos, or place of the sacred fig-tree, where ends the 
Itinerary of Antoninus. 

f See The Scarabmus Sneer, by C. Woodrooffe, B. A. — a paper 
(based 011 notes by the late Rev. C. Johns) read before the Winchester 


The temple here — begun by an Ethiopian king named 
Arkaman (Ergamenes) about whom Diodorus has a long 
story to tell, and carried on by the Ptolemies and Ccesars — 
stands in a desolate open space to the north of the village, 
and is approached by an avenue, the walls of which are 
constructed with blocks from some earlier building. The 
whole of this avenue and all the waste ground for three 
or four hundred yards round about the temple is not 
merely strewn, but piled, with fragments of pottery, peb- 
bles and large, smooth stones of porphery, alabaster, basalt, 
and a kind of marble like verde antico. These stones are 
puzzling. They look as if they might be fragments of 
statues that had been rolled and polished by ages of friction 
in the bed of a torrent. Among the potsherds we find 
some inscrihed fragments like those of Elephantine.* Of 
the temple I will only say that, as masonry, it is better put 
together than any work of the eighteenth or nineteenth 
dynasties with which I am acquainted. The sculptures, how- 
ever, are atrocious. Such misshapen hieroglyphs ; such 
dumpy, smirking goddesses; such clownish kings in such 
preposterous head-dresses, we have never seen till now. 
The whole thing, in short, as regards sculpturesque style, 
is the Ptolemaic out-Ptolemied. 

Rowing round presently to Kobban — the river running 
wide with the sand island between — we land under the 
walls of a huge crude brick structure, black with age, 
which at first sight looks quite shapeless; but which proves 
to be an ancient Egyptian fortress, buttressed, towered, 
loop-hooled, finished at the angles with the invariable 
molded torus, and surrounded by a deep dry moat, which 
is probably yet filled each summer by the inundation. 

Now, of all rare things in the valley of the Nile, a purely 
secular ruin is the rarest; and this, with the exception of 
some foundations of dwellings here and there, is the first 

and Hampshire Scientific and Literary Society, Nov. 8, 1875. Pri- 
vately printed. 

* See chap, x, p. 163. Dakkek (the Pselcis of the Greeks and 
Romans, the Pselk of the Egyptians) was at one time regarded as the 
confine of Egypt and Ethiopia, and would seem to have heen a great 
military station. The inscribed potsherds here are chiefly receipts 
and accounts of soldiers' pay. The walls of the temple outside, and 
of the chambers within, abound also in free-hand graffiti, most of 
which are written in red ink. We observed some that appeared to 
be trilingual. 


we have seen. It is probably very, very old; as old as the 
days of Thothines III, whose name is found on some scat- 
tered blocks about a quarter of a mile away, and who 
built two similar fortresses at Semneh, thirty-five miles 
above Wady Halfeh. It may be even a thousand years 
older still, and date from the time of Amenemhat 
III, whose name is also found on a stela near 
Kobban.* For here was once an ancient city, when 
Pselcis (now Dakkeh) was but a new suburb on the oppo- 
site bank. The name of this ancient city is lost, but it is 
by some supposed to be identical with the Metachompso of 
Ptolemy. f As the suburb grew the mother town declined, 

* " Less than a quarter of a mile to the south are the ruins of a 
small sandstone temple with clustered columns; and on the way, 
near the village, you pass a stone stela of Amenemhat III, mention- 
ing his eleventh year." — "Murray's Hand-hook for Egypt," p. 481. 
M. Maspero, writing of Thothmes III, says: " Sons fils et successeur, 
Amenhotep III, fit construire en face de Pselkis une forteresse 
importante." — "Hist. Ancienne des Peuples de l'Orient," chap, iii, 
p. 113. 

At Kohhan also was found the famous stela of Eameses II, called 
the Stela of Dakkeh; see chap, xv, p. 238. In this inscription, a 
cast from which is at the Louvre, Pameses II is stated to have caused 
an artesian well to be made in the desert between this place and 
(rebel Oellaky, in order to facilitate the working of the gold mines of 
those parts. 

f " According to Ptolemy, Metachompso should be opposite Pselcis, 
where there are extensive brick ruins. If so, Metachompso and 
Contra Pselcis must be the same town." — " Topography of Thebes," 
etc.; Sir G. Wilkinson. Ed. 1835, p. 488. M. Vivien de St. Martin 
is, however, of opinion that the Island of Derar, near Maharrakeh, 
is the true Metachompso. See " Le Xord de l'Afrique," section vi, 
p. 161. Be this as it may, we at all events know of one great siege 
that this fortress sustained, and of one great battle fought beneath 
its walls. "The Ethiopians," says Strabo, "having taking advan- 
tage of the withdrawal of part of the Roman forces, surprised and 
took Syene, Elephantine and Phila?, enslaved the inhabitants, and 
threw down the statues of Caesar. But Petronius, marching with 
less than ten thousand infantry and eight hundred horse against an 
army of thirty thousand men, compelled them to retreat to Pselcis. 
He then sent deputies to demand restitution of what they had taken 
and the reason which had induced them to begin the war. On their 
alleging that they had been ill treated by the monarchs, he answered 
that these were not the sovereigns of the country — but Caesar. 
When they desired three days for consideration and did nothing 
which they were bound to do, Petronius attacked and compelled them 
to fight. They soon fled, being badly commanded and badly armed, 
for they carried large shields made of raw hides, and hatchets for 


arid in time the suburb became the city and the city 
became the suburb. The scattered blocks aforesaid, 
together with the remains of a small temple, yet mark 
the position of the elder city. 

The walls of this most curious and interesting fortress 
have probably lost much of their original height. They 
are in some parts thirty feet thick, and nowhere less than 
twenty. Vertical on the inside, they are built at a but- 
tress-slope outside, with additional shallow buttresses at 
regular distances. These last, as they can scarcely add to 
the enormous strength of the original wall, were probably 
designed for effect. There are two entrances to the fort- 
ress ; one in the center of the north wall, and one in the 
south. We enter the inclosure by the last named, and 
find ourselves in the midst of an immense parallelogram 
measuring about four hundred and fifty feet from east to 
west, and perhaps three hundred feet from north to south. 

All within these bounds is a wilderness of ruin. The 
space looks large enough for a city, and contains what 
might be the debris of a dozen cities. We climb huge 
mounds of rubbish ; skirt cataracts of broken pottery; and 
stand on the brink of excavated pits honeycombed forty 
feet below, with brick foundations. Over these mounds 
and at the bottom of these pits swarm men, women, and 
children, filling and carrying away basket-loads of rubble. 
The dust rises in clouds. The noise, the heat, the con- 
fusion, are indescribable. One pauses, bewildered, seek- 
ing in vain to discover in this mighty maze any indication 
of a plan. It is only by an effort that one gradually 
realizes how the place, is but a vast shell, and how all these 
mounds and pits mark the site of what was once a huge 
edifice rising tower above tower to a central keep, such as 
we see represented in the battle-subjects of Abou Simbel 
and Thebes. 

offensive weapons. Part of the insurgents were driven to the city, 
others fled into the uninhabited country, and such as ventured upon 
the passage of the river escaped to a neighboring island, where there 
were not many crocodiles, on account of the current. 
Petronius then attacked P.selcis, and took it." — Strabo's "Geography," 
Bonn's translation, 1857, vol. iii, pp. 267-268. This island to which 
the insurgents tied may have been the large sand island which here 
still occupies the middle of the river and obstructs the approach to 
Dakkeh. Or they may have fled to the Island of Derar, seven miles 
higher up. Strabo does not give the name of the island. 


That towered edifice and central keep— quarried, broken 
up, carried away piecemeal, reduced to powder, and 
spread over the land as manure — has now disappeared 
almost to its foundations. Only the well in the middle of 
the inclosure, and the great wall of circuit remain. That 
wall is doomed, and will by and by share the fate of the 
rest. The well, which must have been very deep, is 
choked with rubbish to the brim. Meanwhile, in order to 
realize what the place in its present condition is like, one 
need but imagine how the Tower of London would look if 
the whole of the inner buildings — white tower, chapel, 
armory, governor's quarters, and all — were leveled in shape- 
less ruin, and only the outer walls and moat were left. 

Built up against the inner side of the wall of circuit are 
the remains of a series of massive towers, the tops of 
which, as they are, strangely enough, shorter than the ex- 
ternal structure, can never have communicated with the 
battlements, unless by ladders. The finest of these towers, 
together with a magnificent fragment of wall, faces the 
eastern desert. 

Going out by the north entrance, we find the sides of 
the gateway, and even the steps leading down into the 
moat, in perfect preservation ; while at the base of the 
great wall, on the* outer side facing the river, there yet 
remains a channel or conduit about two feet square, built 
and roofed with stone, which in Murray is described as a 

The sun is high, the heat is overwhelming, the felucca 
waits; and we turn reluctantly away, knowing that between 
here and Cairo we shall see no more curious relics of the 
far-off past than this dismantled stronghold. It is a mere 
mountain of unburned brick; altogether unlovely: admirable 
only for the gigantic strength of its proportions; pathetic 
only in the abjectness of its ruin. Yet it brings the lost 
ages home to one's imagination in a way that no temple 
could ever bring them. It dispels for a moment the his- 
toric glamor of the sculptures, and compels us to remem- 
ber those nameless and forgotten millions, of whom their 
rulers fashioned soldiers in time of war and builders in time 
of peace. 

Our adventures by the way are few and far between; and 
we now rarely meet a dahabeeyah. Birds are more plenti- 
ful than when we were in this part of the river a few weeks 


ago. We see immense flights of black and white cranes 
congregated at night on the sand-banks-; and any number 
of quail may bo had for the shooting. It is matter for re- 
joicing when the idle man goes out with his gun and 
brings home a full bag; for our last sheep was killed be- 
fore we started for Wady Halfeh, and our last poultry 
ceased cackling at Abou Simbel. 

One morning early, we see a bride taken across the river 
in a big boat full of women and girls, who are clapping 
their hands and shrilling the tremulous zagharett. The 
bride — a chocolate beauty with magnificent eyes — wears a 
gold brow-pendant and nose-ring, and has her hair newly 
plaited in hundreds of tails, finished off at the ends with mud 
pellets daubed with yellow ocher. She stands surrounded 
by her companions, proud of her finery, and pleased to be 
stared at by the Ingleezeh. 

About this time, also, we see one night a wild sort of 
festival going on for some miles along both sides of the 
river. Watch-fires break out toward twilight, first on this 
bank, then on that; becoming brighter and more numer- 
ous as the darkness deepens. By and by, when we are 
going to bed, we hear sounds of drumming on the eastern 
bank, and see from afar a torchlight procession and dance. 
The effect of this dance of torches — for it is only the 
torches that are visible — is quite diabolic. The lights flit 
and leap as if they were alive; circling, clustering, dispers- 
ing, bobbing, poussetting, pursuing each other at a gallop, 
and whirling every now and then through the air, like 
rockets. Late as it is, we would fain put ashore and see 
this orgy more nearly; but Rei's- Hassan shakes his head. 
The natives hereabout are said to be quarrelsome ; and if, 
as it is probable, they are celebrating the festival of some 
local saint, we might be treated as intruders. 

Coming at early morning to Gerf Hossayn, we make our 
way up to the temple, which is excavated in the face of a 
limestone cliff, a couple of hundred feet, perhaps, above 
the river. A steep path, glaring hot in the sun, leads to a 
terrace in the rock; the temple being approached through 
the ruins of a built-out portico and an avenue of battered 
colossi. It is a gloomy place within — an inferior edition, 
so to say, of the Great Temple of Abou Simbel; and of the 
same date. It consists of a first hall supported by osiride 
pillars, a second and smaller hall with square columns, a 


smoke-blackened sanctuary, and two side-chambers. The 
osiride colossi, which stand twenty feet high without the 
entablature over their heads or the pedestal under their 
feet, are thick-set, bow-legged, and misshapen. Then- 
faces would seem to have been painted black originally; 
while those of the avenue outside have distinctly Ethiopian 
features. One seems to detect here, as at Derr and Wady 
Sabooah, the work of provincial sculptors ; just as at 
Abou Simbel one recognizes the master-style of the artists 
of the Theban Ramesseum. 

The side-chambers at Gerf Hossayn are infested with 
bats. These bats are the great sight of the place and 
have their appointed showman. We find him waiting 
for us with an end of tarred rope, which he flings, blazing, 
into the pitch-dark doorway. For a moment we see the 
whole ceiling hung, as it were, with a close fringe of white, 
filmy-looking pendants. But it is only for a moment. 
The next instant the creatures are all in motion, dashing 
out madly in our faces like driven snowflakes. We picked 
up a dead one afterward, when the rush was over, and 
examined it by the outer daylight — a lovely little creature, 
white and downy, with fine transparent wings and little 
pink feet and the prettiest mousey mouth imaginable. 

Bordered with dwarf palms, acacias and henna-bushes, 
the cliffs between Gerf Hossayn and Dendoor stand out in 
detached masses so like ruins that sometimes we can hardly 
believe they are rocks. At Dendoor, when the sun is set- 
ting and a delicious gloom is stealing up the valley, we 
visit a tiny temple on the western bank. It stands out above 
the river surrounded by a wall of inclosure and consists of 
a single pylon, a portico, two little chambers and a sanctu- 
ary. The whole thing is like an exquisite toy, so covered 
with sculptures, so smooth, so new-looking, so admirably 
built. Seeing them half by sunset, half by dusk, it 
matters not that these delicately wrought bas-reliefs are of 
the decadence school.* The rosy half-light of an Egyptian 
after-glow covers a multitude of sins, and steeps the whole 
in an atmosphere of romance. 

* " C'est un ouvrage non achevi' du temps de l'Enipereur Auguste. 
Quoique peu important par son etendue, ce monument m'a beaucoup 
interesse, puisqu'il est entierement relatif a l'incarnation d'Osiris 
sous forme humaine, sur la terre." — Lettres ccntes d'Egypte, etc. ; 
Champollion. Paris, 1868; p. 126. 


Wondering what has happened to the climate, we wake 
shivering next morning an hour or so before break of day, 
and, for the first time in several weeks, taste the old, early 
chill upon the air. When the sun rises, we find ourselves 
at Kalabsheh, having passed the limit of the tropic during 
the night. Henceforth, no matter how great the heat may 
be by day, this chill invariably comes with the dark hour 
before dawn. 

The usual yelling crowd, with the usual beads, baskets, 
eggs, and pigeons, for sale, greets us on the shore at Ka- 
labsheh. One of the men has a fine old two-handed sword 
in a shabby blue velvet sheath, for which he asks five na- 
poleons. It looks as if it might have belonged to a cru- 
sader. Some of the women bring buffalo-cream in filthy- 
looking black skins slung round their waists like girdles. 
The cream is excellent; but the skins temper one's enjoy- 
ment of the unaccustomed dainty. 

There is a magnificent temple here, and close by, ex- 
cavated in the cliff, a rock-cut speos, the local name of 
which is Bay-tel-Well. The sculptures of this famous 
speos have been more frequently described and engraved 
than almost any sculptures in Egypt. The procession of 
Ethiopian tribute-bearers, the assault of the Amorite city, 
the triumph of Barneses, are familiar not only to every 
reader of Wilkinson, but to every visitor passing through 
the Egyptian rooms of the British Museum. Notwith- 
standing the casts that have been taken from them, and 
the ill-treatment to which they have been subjected bv na- 
tives and visitors, they are still beautiful. The colour of 
those in the roofless court-yard, though so perfect when 
Bonomi executed his admirable fac-similes, has now almost 
entirely peeled off; but in the portico and inner chambers 
it is yet brilliant. An emerald-green Osiris, a crimson 
Ann bis, and an Isis of the brightest chrome yellow, are as- 
tonishingly pure and forcibly in quality. As for the flesh- 
tones of the Anubis, this was, I believe," the only instance I 
observed of a true crimson in Egypt pigments." 

Between the speos of Bayt-el- Welly and the neighbor- 
ing temple of Kalabsheh there lies about half a mile of 
hilly pathway and a gulf of fourteen hundred years. Ra- 
meses ushers us into the presence of Augustus, and we 
pass, as it were, from an oratory in the great house of Pha- 
raoh to the presence-chambers "of the Csesars. 


But if the decorative work in the presence-chamber of the 
Caesars was anything like the decorative work in the temple 
of Kalabsheh, then the taste thereof was of the vilest. 
Such a masquerade of deities; such striped and spotted and 
cross-barred robes; such outrageous head-dresses; such 
crude and violent coloring,* we have never seen the like of. 
As for the goddesses, they are gaudier than the dancing 
damsels of Luxur; while the kings balance on their heads 
diadems compounded of horns, moons, birds, balls, 
beetles, lotus-blossoms, asps, vases, and feathers. The 
temple, however, is conceived on a grand scale. It is the 
Karnak of Nubia. But it is a Karnak that has evidently 
been visited by a shock of earthquake far more severe than 
that which shook the mighty pillars of the hypostyle hall 
and flung down the obelisk of Hatasu. From the river it 
looks like a huge fortress; but, seen from the threshold of 
the main gateway, it is a wilderness of ruin. Fallen 
blocks, pillars, capitals, entablatures, lie so extravagantly 
piled that there is not one spot in all those halls and court- 
yards upon which it is possible to set one's foot on the 
level of the original pavement. Here, again, the earth- 
quake seems to have come before the work was completed. 
There are figures outlined on the walls, but never sculpt- 
ured. Others have been begun, but never finished. You 
can see where the chisel stopped — you can even detect 
which was the last mark it made on the surface. One 
traces here, in fact, the four processes of wall decoration. 
In some places the space is squared off and ruled by the 
mechanic ; in others, the subject is ready drawn within 
those spaces by the artist. Here the sculptor has carried 
it a stage farther ; yonder the painter has begun to 
color it. 

More interesting, however, than aught else at Kalabsheh 
is the Greek inscription of Silco of Ethiopia. f This in- 
scription — made famous by the commentaries of Niebuhr 
and Letronne — was discovered by M. Gau in a. d. 1818. 
It consists of twenty-one lines very neatly written in red 
ink, and it dates from the sixth century of the Christian 
era. It commences thus : 

* I observed mauve here, for the first and only time, and very 
brilliant ultramarine. There are also traces of gliding on many of 
the figures. 

f See chap, xii, p. 199, 


I, Silco, puissant king of the Nubians and all the Ethiopians, 
I came twice as far as Talmis* and Taphis.f 
I fought against the Blemyes,} and God granted me the victory. 
I vanquished them a second time; and the first time 
I established myself completely with my troops. 
I vanquished them, and they supplicated me. 
I made peace with them; and they swore to me by their idols. 
I trusted them; because they are a people of good faith. 
Then I returned to my dominions in the Upper Country. 
For I am a king. 

Not only am I no follower in the train of other kings, 
But I go before them. 
As for those who seek strife against me, 

I give them no peace in their homes till they entreat my pardon. 
For I am a lion on the plains, and a goat upon the mountains. 


The historical value of this inscription is very great. It 
shows that in the sixth century, while the native inhabit- 
ants of this part of the valley of the Nile yet adhered to 
the ancient Egyptian faith, the Ethiopians of the south 
were professedly Christian. 

The descendants of the Blemmys are a fine race; tall, 
strong, and of a rich chocolate complexion. Strolling 
through the village at sunset, we see the entire population 
— old men sitting at their doors; young men lounging and 
smoking; children at play. The women, with glittering 
white teeth and liquid eyes, and a profusion of gold and 
silver ornaments on neck and hrow, come out with their 
little brown babies astride on hip or shoulder, to stare as 
we go by. One sick old woman, lying outside her hut on 
a palm-wood couch, raises herself for a moment on her 
elbow — then sinks back with a weary sigh and turns her 
face to the wall. The mud dwellings here are built in and 
out of a maze of massive stone foundations, the remains of 
buildings once magnificent. Some of these walls are built 
in concave courses; each course of stones, that is to say, 
being depressed in the center and raised at the angles; 

* Talmis: (Kalabsheh). 

f Taphis: (Tafah). 

\ Blemyes: The Blemeys were a nomadic race of Berbers, supposed 
to be originally of the tribe of Bilmas of Tibbous in the central 
desert, and settled as early as the time of Eratosthenes in that part 
of the Valley of the Nile which lies between the first and second 
cataracts. See " Le Nord de l'Afrique," by M. V. de St. Martin. 
Paris, 1863, section iii, p. 73. 


which mode of construction was adopted in order to offer 
less resistance when shaken by earthquake.* 

We observe more foundations built thus at Tafah, where 
we arrive next morning. As the mason's work at Tafah is 
of late Roman date, it follows that earthquakes were yet 
frequent in Nubia at a period long subsequent to the great 
shock of b. c. 27, mentioned by Eusebius. Travelers are 
too ready to ascribe everything in the way of ruin to the fury 
of Cambyses and the pious rage of the early Christians. 
Nothing, however, is easier than to distinguish between 
the damage done to the monuments by the hand of man 
and the damage caused by subterraneous upheaval. Muti- 
lation is the rule in the one case; displacement in the 
other. At Denderah, for example, the injury done is 
wholly willful; at Abou Simbel it is wholly accidental; at 
Karnak it is both willful and accidental. As for Kalab- 
sheh, it is clear that no such tremendous havoc could have 
been effected by human means without the aid of power- 
ful rams, fire, or gunpowder; any of which must have 
left unmistakable traces. 

At Tafah there are two little temples; one in picturesque 
ruin, one quite perfect, and now used as a stable. There 
are also a number of stone foundations, separate, quad- 
rangular, subdivided into numerous small chambers, and 
inclosed in boundary walls, some of which are built in the 
concave courses just named. These sub-structions, of 
which the painter counted eighteen, have long been the 
jmzzle of travelers.f 

Tafah is charmingly placed ; and the seven miles which 
divide it from Kalabsheh — once, no doubt, the scene of a 
cataract — are perhaps the most picturesque on this side of 

* See "The Habitations of Man in All Ages." V. le Due. Chap, 
ix, p. 93. 

f They probably mark the site of a certain Coptic monastery de- 
scribed in an ancient Arabic manuscript quoted by E. Quatreiiiere, 
which says that "in the town of Tafah there is a fine monastery 
called the monastery of Ansoun. It is very ancient; but so solidly 
built, that after so great a number of years it still stands uninjured. 
Near this monastery, facing the mountain, are situated^ fifteen vil- 
lages." See " Memoircs liist. et Geographiques sur l'Egypte et le 
Nubia," par E. Quatremere. Paris, 1811, vol. ii, p. 55. 

The monastery and the villages were, doubtless, of Bomano- 
Egyptian construction in the first instance, and may originallv have 
been a sacred college, like the sacred college of Fhilae. 


Wady Half eh. Rocky islets in the river ; palm groves, 
acacias, carobs, henna and castor-berry bushes and all 
kinds of flowering shrubs, along the edges of the banks ; 
fantastic precipices riven and pinnacled, here rising 
abruptly from the water's edge and there from the sandy 
plain, make lovely sketches whichever way one turns. 
There are gazelles, it is said, in the ravines behind Tafah ; 
and one of the natives — a truculent fellow in ragged shirt 
and dirty white turban — tells how, at a distance of three 
hours up a certain glen, there is another birbeh, larger 
than either of these, in the plain and a great standing 
statue taller than three men. Here, then, if the tale be 
true, is another ready-made discovery for whoever may 
care to undertake it. 

This same native, having sold a necklace to the idle man 
and gone away content with his bargain, comes back by 
and by with half the village at his heels, requiring double 
price. This modest demand being refused, he rages up 
and down like a maniac; tears off his turban; goes through 
a wild manual exercise with his spear; then sits down in 
stately silence, with his friends and neighbors drawn up in 
a semicircle behind him. 

This, it seems, is Nubian for a challenge. He has 
thrown down his gantlet in form and demands trial by 
combat. The noisy crowd, meanwhile, increases every 
moment. Rei's Hassan looks grave, fearing a possible 
fracas; and the idle man, who is reading the morning 
service down below (for it is on a Sunday morning) can 
scarcely be heard for the clamor outside. In this emer- 
gency it occurs to the writer to send a message ashore in- 
forming these gentlemen that the howadjis are holding 
mosque in the dahabeeyah and entreating them to be quiet 
till the hour of prayer is past. The effect of the message, 
strange to say, is instantaneous. The angry voices are at 
once hushed. The challenger puts on his turban. The 
assembled spectators squat in respectful silence on the 
bank. A whole hour goes by thus, so giving the storm 
time to blow over; and when the idle man reappears on 
deck his would-be adversary comes forward quite pleasantly 
to discuss the purchase afresh. 

It matters little how the affair ended; but I believe he 
was offered his necklace back in exchange for the money 
paid and preferred to abide by his bargain. It is as 


evidence of the sincerity of the religious sentiment in the 
minds of a semi-savage people,* that I have thought the 
incident worth telling. 

We are now less than forty miles from Philse ; but 
the head wind is always against us and the men's bread is 
exhausted and there is no flour to be bought in these 
Nubian villages. The poor fellows swept out the last 
crumbs from the bottom of their bread-chest three or four 
days ago and are now living on quarter-rations of lentil 
soup and a few dried dates bought at AVady Halfeh. 
Patient and depressed, they crouch silently beside their 
oars, or forget their hunger in sleep. For ourselves, it is 
painful to witness their need and still more painful to be 
unable to help them. Talhamy, whose own stores are at a 
low ebb, vows he can do nothing. It would take his few 
remaining tins of preserved meat to feed fifteen men for 
two days, and of flour he has barely enough for the howad- 
jis. Hungry? well, yes — no doubt they are hungry. But 
what of that? They are Arabs: and Arabs bear hunger as 
camels bear thirst. It is nothing new to them. They 
have often been hungry before — they will often be hungry 
again. Enough! It is not for the ladies to trouble them- 
selves about such fellows as these! 

Excellent advice, no doubt; but hard to follow. Not to 
be troubled and not to do what little we can for the 
poor lads, is impossible. When that little means laying 
violent hands upon Talhamy's reserve of eggs and biscuits 
and getting up lotteries for prizes of chocolate and tobacco, 
that worthy evidently considers that we have tak' n leave 
of our wits. 

Under a burning sky we touch for an hour or two at 
Gertassee and then push on for Dabod. The limestone 
quarries at Gertassee are full of votive sculptures and in- 
scriptions; and the little ruin — a mere cluster of graceful 
columns supporting a fragment of cornice — stands high on 
the brink of a cliff overhanging the river. Take it as you 

* " The peasants of Tafali relate that they are the descendants of 
the few Christian inhabitants of the city who embraced the Moham- 
madan faith when the country was conquered by the followers of 
the prophet; the greater part of the brethren having either fled or 
been put to death on the event taking place. They are still called 
Oulad el Nusara, or the Christian progenv." — " Travels in Nubia:" 
Burckhardt. London, 1819, p. 121. 


will, from above or below, looking north or looking south, 
it makes a charming sketch. 

If transported to Dab6d on that magic carpet of the 
fairy tale, one would take it for a ruin on the "beached 
margent" of some placid lake in dreamland. It lies be- 
tween two bends of the river, which here flows wide, show- 
ing no outlet and seeming to be girdled by mountains and 
palm-groves. Tbe temple is small and uninteresting; be- 
gun, like Dakkeh, by an Ethiopian king and finished by 
Ptolemies and Caesars. The one curious thing about it is a 
secret cell, most cunningly devised. Adjoining the sanc- 
tuary is a dark side-chamber; in the floor of the side- 
chamber is a pit, once paved over; in one corner of the pit 
is a mau-hole opening into a narrow passage; and in the 
narrow passage are steps leading up to a secret chamber 
constructed in the thickness of the wall. We saw other 
secret chambers in other temples,* but not one in which the 
old approaches were so perfectly preserved. 

From Dabod to Philae is but ten miles; and we are bound 
for Torrigur, which is two miles nearer. Now Torrigur is 
that same village at the foot of the beautiful sand-drift, 
near which we moored on our way up the river; and here 
we are to stay two days, followed by at least a week at 
Philffi. No sooner, therefore, have we reached Torrigur 
than Eeis Hassan and three sailors start for Assuan to buy 
flour. Old Ali, Riskalli and Musa, whose homes lie in the 
villages round about, get leave of absence for a week; and 
we find ourselves reduced all at once to a crew of five, 
with only Khaleefeh in command. Five, however, are as 
good as fifty when the dahabeeyah lies moored and there is 
nothing to do; and our five, having succeeded in buying 
some flabby Nubian cakes and green lentils, are now quite 

* In tliese secret chambers (the entrance to which was closed by a 
block of masonry so perfectly fitted as to defy detection) were kept 
the images of gold and silver and lapis lazuli, the precious vases, the 
sistrums, the jeweled collars, and all the portable treasures of the 
temples. We saw a somewhat similar pit and small chamber in a 
corner of the Temple of Dakkeh, and some very curious crypts and 
hiding-places under the floor of the dark chamber to the east of tbe 
sanctuary at Phila?, all of course long since broken open and rifled. 
But we had strong reason to believe that the painter discovered the 
whereabouts of a hidden chamber or passage to tbe west of tbe 
sanctuary, yet closed, with all its treasures probably intact. We 
had, however, no means of opening the wall, which is of solid 


happy. So the painter pitches his tent on the top of the 
sand-drift ; and the writer sketches the ruined convent 

opposite; and L and the little lady write no end of 

letters; and the idle man, with Mehemet Ali for a re- 
triever, shoots quail, and everybody is satisfied. 

Hapless idle man! hapless but homicidal. If he had 
been content to shoot only quail, and had not taken to 
shooting babies! What possessed him to do it? Not — not 
let us hope — an ill-directed ambition foiled of crocodiles! 
lie went serene and smiling, with his gun under his arm, 
■and Mehemet Ali in his wake. Who so light of heart as 
that idle man? Who so light of heel as that turbaned 
retriever? We heard our sportsman popping away pres- 
ently in the barley. It was a pleasant sound, for we knew 
his aim was true. "Every shot," said we, "means a 
bird." We little dreamed that one of those shots meant a 

All at once a woman screamed. It was a sharp, sudden 
scream, following a shot — a scream with a ring of horror 
in it. Instantly it was caught up from point to point, 
growing in volume and seeming to be echoed from every 
direction at once. At the same moment the bank became 
alive with human beings. They seemed to spring from 
the soil — women shrieking and waving their arms ; men 
running; all making for the same goal. The writer heard 
the scream, saw the rush, and knew at once that a gun 
accident had happened. 

A few minutes of painful suspense followed. Then 
Mehemet Ali appeared, tearing back at the top of his 
speed; and presently — perhaps five minutes later, though 
it seemed like twenty — came the idle man ; walking very 
slowly and defiantly, with his head up, his arms folded, 
his gun gone, and an immense rabble at his heels. 

Our scanty crew, armed with sticks, flew at once to the 
rescue, and brought him off in safety. We then learned 
what had happened. 

A flight of quail had risen ; and as quail fly low, skim- 
ming the surface of the grain and diving down again 
almost immediately, he had taken a level aim. At the 
instant that he fired, and in the very path of the quail, a 
woman and child who had been squatting in the barley, 
sprang up screaming. He at once saw the coming danger; 
and, with admirable presence of mind, drew the charge of 


his second barrel. lie then hid his cartridge-box and 
hugged his gun, determined to' hold it as long as possible. 
The next moment he was surrounded, overpowered, had 
the gun wrenched from his grasp, and received a blow on 
the back with a stone. Having captured the gun, one or 
two of the men let go. It was then that he shook off the 
rest and came back to the boat. Mehemet Ali at the 
same time flew to call a rescue. He, too, came in for some 
hard knocks, besides having his shirt rent and his turban 
torn off his head. 

Here were we, meanwhile, with less than half our crew,' 
a private war on our hands, no captain, and one of our 
three guns in the hands of the enemy. What a scene it 
was! A whole village, apparently a very considerable vil- 
lage, swarming on the bank ; all hurrying to and fro ; all 
raving, shouting, gesticulating. If wo had been on the 
verge of a fracas at Tafah, here we were threatened with a 

Drawing in the plank between the boat and the shore, 
we held a hasty council of war. 

, The woman being unhurt, and the child, if hurt at all, 
hurt very slightly, we felt justified in assuming an injured 
tone, calling the village to account for a case of cowardly 
assault, and demanding instant restitution of the gun. 
We accordingly sent Talhamy to parley with the head man 
of the place and peremptorily demand the gun. We also 
bade him add — and this we regarded as a master-stroke of 
policy — that if due submission was immediately made, the 
howadji, one of whom was a Hakeem, would permit the 
father to bring his child on board to have its hurts at- 
tended to. 

Outwardly indifferent, inwardly not a little anxious, we 
waited the event. Talhamy's back being toward the river, 
we had the whole semicircle of swarthy faces full in view 
— bent brows, flashing eyes, glittering teeth; all anger, all 
scorn, all defiance. Suddenly the expression of the faces 
changed — the change beginning with those nearest the 
speaker, and spreading gradually outward. It was as if a 
wave had passed over them. We knew then that our coup 
was made. Talhamy returned. The villagers crowded 
round their leaders, deliberating. Numbers now began to 
sit down; and when a Nubian sits down, you may be sure 
that he is no longer dangerous. 


Presently— after perhaps a quarter of an hour— the gun 
was brought back uninjured, and an elderly man carrying 
a blue bundle appeared on the bank. The plank was now 
put across; the crowd was kept off; and the man with the 
bundle, and three or four others, were allowed to pass. 

The bundle being undone, a little brown imp of about 
four years of age, with shaven head and shaggy scalp-lock, 
was produced. He whimpered at first, seeing the strange 
white faces; but when offered a fig, forgot his terrors, and 
sat munching it like a monkey. As for his wounds, they 
were literally skin-deep, the shot having but slightly 
grazed his shoulders in four or five places. The idle man, 
however, solemnly sponged the scratches with warm 
water, and L covered them with patches of sticking- 
plaster. Finally, the father was presented with a napoleon; 
the patient was wrapped in one of his murderer's shirts; 
and the first act of the tragedy ended. The second and 
third acts were to come. 

When the painter and the idle man talked the affair 
over, they agreed that it was expedient, for the protection 
of future travelers, to lodge a complaint against the village; 
and this mainly on account of the treacherous blow dealt 
from behind, at a time when the idle man (who had not 
once attempted to defend himself) was powerless in the 
hands of a mob. They therefore went next day to Assiian; 
and the governor, charming as ever, promised that justice 
should be done. Meanwhile we moved the dahabeeyah to 
Philae, and there settled down for a week's sketching._ 

Next evening came a woful deputation from Torrigur, 
entreating forgiveness and stating that fifteen villagers had 
been swept off to prison. 

The idle man explained that he no longer had anything 
to do with it; that the matter, in short, was in the hands 
of justice, and would be dealt with according to law. 
Hereupon the spokesman gathered up a handful of imagin- 
ary dust and made believe to scatter it on his head. 

" dragoman!" he said, " tell the howadji that there is 
no law but his pleasure and no justice but the will of the 



Summoned next morning to give evidence, the idle man 
went betimes to Assuan, where he was received in private 
by the governor and mudir. Pipes and coffee were handed 
and the usual civilities exchanged. The governor then 


informed his guest that fifteen men of Torrigur had been 
arrested; and that fourteen of them unanimously identified 
the fifteenth as the one who struck the blow. 

"And now," said the governor, " before we send for the 
prisoners it will be as well to decide on the sentence. What 
does his excellency wish done to them?" 

The idle man was puzzled. How could he offer an 
opinion, being ignorant of the Egyptian civil code? and 
how could the sentence be decided upon before the trial? 

The governor smiled serenely. 

" But," he said, " this is the trial." 

Being an Englishman, it necessarily cost the idle man an 
effort to realize the full force of this explanation — an ex- 
planation which, in its sublime simplicity, epitomized the 
whole system of the judicial administration of Egyptian 
law. He hastened, however, to explain that he cherished 
no resentment against the culprit or the villagers, and that 
his only wish was to frighten them into a due respect for 
travelers in general. 

The governor hereupon invited the mudir to suggest a 
sentence ; and the mudir — taking into consideration, as 
he said, his excellency's lenient disposition — proposed to 
award to the fourteen innocent men one month's imprison- 
ment each ; and to the real offender two month's imprison- 
ment, with a hundred and fifty blows of the bastinado. 

Shocked at the mere idea of such a sentence, the idle 
man declared that he must have the innocent set at liberty; 
but consented that the culprit, for the sake of example, 
should be sentenced to the one hundred and fifty blows — 
the punishment to be remitted after the first few strokes 
had been dealt. Word was now given for the prisoners to 
be brought in. 

The jailer marched first, followed by two soldiers. Then 
came the fifteen prisoners — I am ashamed to write it ! — 
clmined neck to neck, in single file. 

One can imagine how the idle man felt at this mo- 

Sentence being pronounced, the fourteen looked as if 
they could hardly believe their ears; while the fifteenth, 
though condemned to his one hundred and fifty strokes 
(" seventy-five to each foot," specified the governor), was 
overjoyed to be let off so easily. 

He was then flung down ; his feet were fastened soles 


uppermost; and two soldiers proceeded to execute the sen- 
tence. As each blow fell, he cried: "God save the gov- 
ernor ! God save the mudir ! God save the howadji !" 

When the sixth stroke had been dealt the idle man turned 
to the governor and formally interceded for the remission 
of the rest of the sentence. The governor as formally 
granted the request, and the prisoners, weeping with joy, 
were set at liberty. 

The governor, the mudir, and the idle man then parted 
with a profusion of compliments; the governor protesting 
that his only wish was to be agreeable to the English, and 
that the whole village should have been bastinadoed had 
his excellency desired it. 

We spent eight enchanted days at Philfe, and it so hap- 
pened, when the afternoon of the eighth ciime round, that 
for the last few hours the writer was alone on the island. 
Alone, that is to say. with only a sailor in attendance, 
which was virtually solitude; and Philas is a place to which 
solitude adds an inexpressible touch of pathos and remote- 

It has been a hot day, and there is dead calm on the 
river. My last sketch finished, I wander slowly round 
from spot to spot, saying farewell to Pharaoh's bed — to the 
painted columns — to the terrace, and palm, and shrine, 
and familiar point of view. I peep once again into the 
mystic chamber of Osiris. I see the sun set for the last 
time from the roof of the Temple of Isis. Then, when all 
that wondrous flush of rose and gold has died away, comes 
the warm after-glow. No words can paint the melancholy 
beauty of Philas at this hour. The surrounding mount- 
ains stand out jagged and purple against a pale amber 
sky. The Nile is glassy. Not a breath, not a bubble, 
troubles the inverted landscape. Every palm is twofold; 
every stone is doubled. The big bowlders in mid-stream 
are reflected so perfectly that it is impossible to tell where 
the rock ends and the water begins. The temples, mean- 
while, have turned to a subdued golden bronze; and the 
pylons are peopled with shapes that glow with fantastic 
life, and look ready to step down from their places. 

The solitude is perfect, and there is a magical stillness in 
the air. I hear a mother crooning to her baby on the 
neighboring island — a sparrow twittering in its little nest 


in the capital of a column below my feet — a vulture scream- 
ing plaintively among the rocks in the far distance. 

I look; I listen; I promise myself that I will remember it 
all in years to come — all the solemn hills, these silent 
colonnades, these deep, quiet spaces of shadow, these sleep- 
ing palms. Lingering till it is all but dark, I at last bid 
them farewell, fearing lest I may behold them no more- 




Going, it cost us four days to struggle up from Assuan 
to Mahatta ; returning, we slid down — thanks to our old 
friend the sheik of the cataract — in one short, sensational 
half-hour. He came — flat-faced, fishy-eyed, fatuous as 
ever — with his head tied up in the same old yellow hand- 
kerchief, and with the same chibouque in his mouth. He 
brought with him a following of fifty stalwart shellalees; 
and under his arm he carried a tattered red flag. This 
flag, on which were embroidered the crescent and star, he 
hoisted with much solemnity at the prow. 

Consigned thus to the protection of the prophet; win- 
dows and tambooshy* shuttered up ; doors closed ; break- 
ables removed to a place of safety, and everything made 
snug, as if for a storm at sea, we put off from Mahatta at 
seven a. M. on a lovely morning in the middle of March. 
The Phihe, instead of* threading her way back through the 
old channels, strikes across to the Libyan side, making 
straight for the liig Bab — that formidable rapid which as 
yet we have not seen. All last night we heard its voice in 
the distance; now, at every stroke of the oars, that rushing 
sound draws nearer. 

The sheik of the cataract is our captain, and his men 
are our sailors to-day ; Rei's Hassan and the crew having 
only to sit still and look on. The shellalees, meanwhile, 
row swiftly and steadily. Already the river seems to be 
running faster than usual ; already the current feels 
stronger under our keel. And now, suddenly, there is 
sparkle and foam on the surface yonder — there are rocks 
ahead ; rocks to right and left ; eddies everywhere. The 
sheik lays down his pipe, kicks off his shoes, and goes him- 
self to the prow. His second in command is stationed at 

*Ar. Tambooshy — i. e., saloon skylight, 


the top of the stairs leading to the upper deck. Six men 
take the tiller. The rowers are re-enforced, and sit two to 
each oar. 

In the midst of these preparations, when everybody 
looks grave and even the Arabs are silent, we all at once 
find ourselves at the mouth of a long and narrow strait — 
a kind of ravine between two walls of rock — through 
which, at a steep incline, there rushes a roaring mass of 
waters. The whole Nile, in fact, seems to be thundering 
in wild waves down that terrible channel. 

It seems, at first sight, impossible that any dahabeeyah 
should venture that way and not be dashed to pieces. 
Neither does there seem room for boats and oars to pass. 
The sheik, however, gives the word — his second echoes 
it — the men at the helm obey. They put the dahabeeyah 
straight at that monster mill-race. For one breathless 
second we seem to tremble on the edge of the fall. Then 
the Philae plunges in headlong! 

We see the whole boat slope down bodily under our feet. 
AVe feel the leap — the dead fall — the staggering rush for- 
ward. Instantly the waves are foaming and boiling up on 
all sides, flooding the lower deck and covering the upper 
deck with spray. The men ship their oars, leaving all to 
helm and current; and, despite the hoarse tumult, we dis- 
tinctly hear those oars scrape the rocks on either side. 

Now the sheik, looking for the moment quite majestic, 
stands motionless with uplifted arm; for at the end of the 
pass there is a sharp turn to the right — as sharp as a street 
corner in a narrow London thoroughfare. Can the Phike, 
measuring one hundred feet from stem to stern, ever round 
that angle in safety? Suddenly, the uplifted arm is waved 
— the sheik thunders " Daffet I" (''helm") — the men, 
steady and prompt, put the helm about — the boat, answer- 
ing splendidly to the word of command, begins to turn be- 
fore we are out of the rocks; then, shooting round the 
corner at exactly the right moment, comes out safe and 
sound, with only an oar broken! 

Great is the rejoicing. Reiis Hassan, in the joy of his 
heart, runs to shake hands all round; the Arabs burst into 
a chorus of " Taibs " and " Salames ;" and Talhamy, com- 
ing up all smiles, is set upon by half a dozen playful shell- 
alees, who snatch his keffiyeh from his head and carry it 
off as a trophy. The only one unmoved is the sheik of the 


cataract. His momentary flash of energy over, lie slouches 
back with the old stolid face; slips on his shoes; drops on 
his heels ; lights his pipe ; and looks more like an owl 
than ever. 

We had fancied till now that the cataract Arabs for 
their own profit and travelers for their own glory had 
grossly exaggerated the dangers of the Big Bab. But such 
is not the case. The Big Bab is in truth a serious under- 
taking; so serious that I doubt whether any English boat- 
man would venture to take such a boat down such a rapid 
and between such rocks as the shellalee Arabs took the 
Phila? that day. 

All dahabeeyahs, however, are not so lucky. Of thirty- 
four that shot the fall this season, several had been slightly 
damaged and one was so disabled that she had to lie up at 
Assuan for a fortnight to be mended. Of actual ship- 
wreck, or injury to life and limb, I do not suppose there is 
any real danger. The shellalees are wonderfully cool and 
skillful and have abundant practice. Our painter, it is 
true, preferred rolling up his canvases and carrying them 
round on dry land by way of the desert; but this was a 
precaution that neither he nor any of us would have 
dreamed of taking on account of our own personal safety. 
There is, in fact, little, if anything, to fear; and the trav- 
eler who foregoes the descent of the cataract foregoes a 
very curious sight and a very exciting adventure. 

At Assuan we bade farewell to Nubia and the blameless 
Ethiopians and found ourselves once more traversing the 
Nile of Egypt. If instead of five miles of cataract we had 
crossed five hundred miles of sea or desert, the change could 
not have been more complete. We left behind us a dreamy 
river, a silent shore, an ever-present desert. Eeturning, 
Ave plunged back at once into the midst of a fertile and pop- 
ulous region. All day long, now, we see boats on the river; 
villages on the banks; birds on the wing; husbandmen on 
the land; men and women, horses, camels and asses, passing 
perpetually to and fro on the towing-path. There is 
always something moving, something doing. The Nile is 
running low and the shad Ms — three deep, now — are in full 
swing from morning till night. Again the smoke goes up 
from clusters of unseen huts at close of day. Again we 
hear the dogs barking from hamlet to hamlet in the still 
hours of the night. Again, toward sunset, we see troops 


of girls coming down to the river side with their water-jars 
on their heads. Those Arab maidens, when they stand 
with garments tightly tucked up and just their feet in the 
water, dipping the goolah at arm's length in the fresher 
gush of the current, almost tempt one's pencil into the for- 
bidden paths of caricature. 

Kom Ombo is a magnificent torso. It was as large once 
as Denderah — perhaps larger; for, being on the same grand 
scale, it was a double temple and dedicated to two gods, 
Horus and Sebek;* the hawk and the crocodile. Now 
there remain only a few giant columns, buried to within 
eight or ten feet of their gorgeous capitals; a superb frag- 
ment of architrave; one broken wave of sculptured cor- 
nice and some fallen blocks graven with the names of 
Ptolemies and Cleopatras. 

A great double doorway, a hall of columns and a double 
sanctuary are said to be yet perfect, though no longer ac- 
cessible. The roofing-blocks of three halls, one behind the 
other, and a few capitals are yet visible behind the portico. 

What more may lie buried below the surface none can 
tell. We only know that an ancient city and a mediaeval 
hamlet have been slowly engulfed; and that an early tem- 
ple, contemporary with the Temple of Amada, once stood 
within the sacred inclosure. The sand here has been ac- 
cumulating for two thousand years. It lies forty feet deep, 
and has never been excavated. It will never be excavated 
now, for the Nile is gradually sapping the bank and carry- 
ing away piecemeal from below what the desert has 
buried from above. Half of one noble pylon — a cataract 
of sculptured blocks — strews the steep slope from top to 
bottom. The other half hangs suspended on the brink of 
the precipice. It cannot hang so much longer. A day 
must soon come when it will collapse with a crash and 
thunder down like its fellow. 

Between Kom Ombo and Silsilis, we lost our painter. 
Not that he either strayed or was stolen; but that, having 
accomplished the main object of his journey, he was glad 
to seize the first opportunity of getting back quickly to 

* " Sebek est un dieu solaire. Dans un papyrus de boulak, il est 
appele fils d'Isis, et il combat les enemis d'Osiris; e'es't line assimila- 
tion complete a Horus, et c'est a ce titre qu'il etait adore il Umbos." 
— "Die. Arch." P. Pierret. Paris, 1 875. 


Cairo. That opportunity — represented by a noble duke 
honeymooning with a steam-tug — happened half-way 
between Kom Oinbo and Silsilis. Painter and duke 
being acquaintances of old, the matter was soon settled. 
In less than a quarter Of an hour, the big picture and all 
the paraphernalia of the studio were transported from the 
stern-cabin of the Philse to the stern-cabin of the steam- 
tug ; and our painter — fitted out with an extempore can- 
teen, a cook-boy, a waiter, and his fair share of the neces- 
saries of life — was soon disappearing gayly in the distance 
at the rate of twenty miles an hour. If the happy couple, 
so weary of head-winds, so satiated with temples, followed 
that vanishing steam-tug with eyes of melancholy longing, 
the writer at least asked nothing better than to drift on 
with the Philse. 

Still, the Nile is long, and life is short; and the tale told 
by our log-book was certainly not encouraging. When we 
reached Silsilis on the morning of the 17th of March the 
north wind had been blowing with only one day's inter- 
mission since the 1st of February. 

At Silsilis, one looks in vain for traces of that great 
barrier which once blocked the Nile at this point. The 
stream is narrow here, and the sand-stone cliffs come down 
on both sides to the water's edge. In some places there is 
space for a footpath; in others, none. There are also some 
sunken rocks in the bed of the river — upon one of which, 
by the way, a Cook's steamer had struck two days before. 
But of such a mass as could have dammed the Nile, and, 
by its disruption, not only have caused the river to desert 
its bed at Philaj,* but have changed the whole physical and 
climatic conditions ©f Lower Nubia, there is no sign what- 

The Arabs here show a rock fantastically quarried in the 
shape of a gigantic umbrella, to which they pretend some 
king of old attached one end of a chain with which he 
barred the Nile. It may be that in this apocryphal legend 
there survives some memory of the ancient barrier. 

The cliffs of the western bank are rich in memorial 
niches, votive shrines, tombs, historical stela, and inscrip- 
tions. These last date from the sixth to the twenty-second 
dynasties. Some of the tombs and alcoves are very curious. 

* See chap, xi, p. 184. 


Ranged side by side in a long row close above the river, and 
revealing glimpses of seated figures and gaudy decorations 
within, they look like private boxes with their occupants. 
In most of these we found mutilated triads of gods,* sculpt- 
ured and painted; and in one larger than the rest were 
three niches, each containing three deities. 

The great speos of Horemheb, the last Pharaoh of the 
eighteenth dynasty, lies farthest north, and the memorial 
shrines of the Rameses family lie farthest south of the 
series. The first is a long gallery, like a cloister supported 
on four square columns; and is excavated parallel with the 
river. The walls inside and out are covered with delicately 
executed sculptures in low relief, some of which yet retain 
traces of color. The triumph of Horemheb returning from 
conquest in the land of Kush, and the famous subject on 
the south wall described by Mariettef as one of the few 
really lovely things in Egyptian art have been too often 
engraved to need description. The votive shrines of the 
Rameses family are grouped altogether in a picturesque 
nook green with bushes to the water's edge. There are 
three, the work of Seti I, Rameses II, and Menepthah — 
lofty alcoves, each like a little proscenium, with painted 
cornices and side pillars, and groups of kings and gods still 
bright with color. In most of the votive sculptures of Sil- 
silis there figure two deities but rarely seen elsewhere; 
namely Sebek, the crocodile god, and Hapi-Mu, the lotus- 
crowned god of the Nile. This last was the tutelary deity 
of the spot, and was worshiped at Silsilis with special 
rites. Hymns, in his honor are found carved here and 
there upon the rocks. \ Most curious of all, however, is a 

* " Le point de depart de la mythologie Egyptienne est une 
Triade." Champollion, Letters d'lSgypte, etc., XI Lettre. Paris, 
1868. These Triads are best studied at Gerf Hossayn and Kalab- 

f " L'un (paroi du sud) represente une deesse nourissant de son 
lait divin le roi Horus, encore enfant. L'Egypte n'a jamais, comme 
la Grece, attaint l'ideal du beau . . . mais en tant qu'art Egyp- 
tien, le bas-relief du Speos de Gebel-Silsileh est une des plus belles 
ceuvres que Ton puisse voir. Nulle part, en effet, la ligne n'est plus 
pure, et il regne dans ce tableau une certaine douceur trauquille qui 
charme et etonne a la fois." — " Itineraire de la Haut Egypte." A 
Marietta: 1872, p. 246. 

% See " Sallier Papyrus Xo. 2." Hymn to the Nile — translation by 
C, Maspero. 4to Paris, 1868. 



goddess named Ta-ur-t,* represented in one of the side 
subjects of the shrine of Rameses II. This charming per- 
son, who has the body of a hippopotamus and the face of 
a woman, wears a tie-wig and a robe of state with five 
capes, and looks like a cross between a lord chancellor and 
a coachman. Behind her stand Thoth and Nut ; all three 
receiving the homage of Queen Nefertari, who advances 



with an offering of two sistrums. As a hippopotamus 
crowned with the disk and plumes, we had met with this 
goddess before. She is not uncommon as an amulet; and 
the writer had already sketched her at Philge, where she 
occupies a prominent place in the facade of the Mammisi. 
But the grotesque elegance of her attire at Silsilis is, I 
imagine, quite unique. 

* Ta-ur-t, or Apet the Great. " Cette Deesse a corps d'hippopo- 
tame debout et a mamelles pendantes, parait etre une sorte de 
deesse nourrice. Elle serable, dans le bas temps, je ne dirai pas se 
substitaer a Maut, mais completer le role de cette deesse. Elle est 
nominee la grande nourrice; et presidait aux chambres oil etaient re- 
presentees les naissances des jeunes divinites." — "Diet. Arch. 
P. Pierret. Paris, 1875. 

"In the Heavens, this goddess personified the constellation Ursa 
Major, or the Great Bear." — " Guide to the First and Second Egyptian 
Rooms." S. Birch. London, 1874, 


The interest of the western bank centers in its sculpt- 
ures and inscriptions ; the interest of the eastern bank in 
its quarries. We rowed over to a point nearly opposite 
the shrines of the Ramessides, and, climbing a steep verge 
of debris, came to the mouth of a narrow cutting between 
walls of solid rock from forty to fifty feet in height. 
These walls are smooth, clean-cut, and faultlessly perpen- 
dicular. The color of the sand-stone is rich amber. The 
passage is about ten feet in width and perhaps four hun- 
dred in length. Seen at a little after midday, with one 
side in shadow, the other in sunlight, and a narrow ribbon 
of blue sky overhead, it is like nothing else in the world; 
unless, perhaps, the entrance to Petra. 

Following this passage we came presently to an immense 
area, at least as large as Belgrave Square; beyond which, 
separated by a thin partition of rock, opened a second and 
somewhat smaller area. On the walls of these huge amphi- 
theaters, the chisel-marks and wedge-holes were as fresh as 
if the last blocks had been taken hence but yesterday; yet 
it is some two thousand years since the place last rang to 
the blows of the mallet, and echoed back the voices of the 
workmen. From the days of the Theban Pharaohs to the 
days of the Ptolemies and Caesars, those echoes can never 
have been silent. The temples of Karnak and Luxor, of 
Gournah, of Medinet Habu, of Esneh and Edfn and Iler- 
monthis, all came from here and from the quarries on the 
opposite side of the river.* 

Returning, we climbed long hills of chips; looked down 
into valleys of debris ; and came back at last to the 
river side by way of an ancient inclined plane, along which 
the blocks were slid clown to the transport boats below. 
But the most wonderful thing about Silsilis is the way in 
which the quarrying has been done. In all these halls and 
passages and amphitheaters the sandstone has been sliced 
out smooth and straight, like hay from a hay-rick. Every- 
where the blocks have been taken out square; and every- 
where the best of the stone has been extracted and the 
worst left. Where it was fine in grain and even in color it 
lias been cut with the nicest economy. Where it was 

* For a highly interesting account of the rock-cut inscriptions, 
graffiti, and quarry-marks at Silsilis, in the desert between Assuan 
and Phike, and in the valley called Soba Kigolah, see Mr. W. M. F. 
Petrie's recent volume entitled " A Season's Work in Egypt," 1877. 


whitish, or brownish, or traversed by veins of violet, it has 
been left standing. Here and there we saw places where 
the lower part had been removed and the upper part left 
projecting, like the overhanging stories of our old mediaeval 
timber houses. Compared with this pussiant and perfect 
quarrying, our rough-and-ready blasting looks like the 
work of savages. 

Struggling hard against the wind, we left Silsilis that 
same afternoon. The wrecked steamer was now more than 
half under water. She had broken her back and begun 
filling immediately, with all Cook's party on board. Being 
rowed ashore with what necessaries they could gather to- 
gether these unfortunates had been obliged to encamp in 
tents borrowed from the mudir of the district. Luckily 
for them, a couple of homeward-bound dahabeeyahs came 
by next morning, and took off as many as they could ac- 
commodate. The duke's steam-tug received the rest. The 
tents were still there, and a gang of natives, under the 
superintendence of the mudir, were busy getting off all 
that could be saved from the wreck. 

As evening drew on, our head-wind became a hurricane; 
and that hurricane lasted day and night for thirty-six 
hours. All this time the Nile was driving up against the 
current in great rollers, like rollers on the Cornish coast 
when tide and wind set together from the west. To hear 
them roaring past in the darkness of the night — to feel 
the Phila? rocking, shivering, straining at her mooring- 
ropes and bumping perpetually against the bank, was far 
from pleasant. By day the scene was extraordinary. There 
were no clouds, but the air was thick with sand, through 
which the sun glimmered feebly. Some palms, looking 
gray and ghostlike on the bank above, bent as if they must 
break before the blast. The Nile was yeasty and flecked 
with brown foam, large lumps of which came swirling 
every now and then against our cabin windows. The op- 
posite bank was simply nowhere. Judging only by what 
was visible from the deck one would have vowed that the 
dahabeeyah was moored against an open coast with an 
angry sea coming in. 

The wind fell about five A. m. the second day; when the 
men at once took to their oars and by breakfast-time 
brought us to Edfu. Nothing now could be more delicious 
than the weather. It was a cool, silvery, misty morning — 


such a morning as one never knows in Nubia, where the 
sun is no sooner up than one is plunged at once into the 
full blaze and stress of day. There were donkeys waiting 
for us on the bank and our way lay for about a mile 
through barley flats and cotton plantations. The country 
looked rich; the people smiling and well conditioned. We 
met a troop of them going down to the dahabeeyah with 
sheep, pigeons, poultry and a young ox for sale. Crossing 
a b;ick-water, bridged by a few rickety palm-trunks, we 
now approached the village, which is perched, as usual, on 
the mounds of the ancient city. Meanwhile the great 
pylons — seeming to grow larger every moment — rose, 
creamy in light, against a soft-blue sky. 

Riding through lanes of huts we came presently to an 
open space and a long flight of roughly built steps in front 
of the temple. At the top of these steps we were standing 
on the level of the modern village. At the bottom we saw 
the massive pavement that marked the level of the ancient 
city. From that level rose the pylons which even from afar 
off had looked so large. We now found that those stupen- 
dous towers not only soared to a height of about seventy- 
five feet above our heads, but plunged down to a depth of at 
least forty more beneath our feet. 

Ten years ago nothing was visible of the great Temple 
of Edfu save the tops of these pylons. The rest of the 
building was as much lost to sight as if the earth had 
opened and swallowed it. Its court-yards were choked with 
foul debris. Its sculptured chambers were buried under 
forty feet of soil. Its terraced roof was a maze of closely 
packed huts, swarming with human beings, poultry, dogs, 
kine, asses and vermin. Thanks to the indefatigable 
energy of Mariette, these Augean stables were cleansed 
some thirty years ago. Writing himself of this tremen- 
dous task, he says : " I caused to be demolished the sixty- 
four houses which encumbered the roof, as well as twenty- 
eight more which approached too near the outer wall of the 
temple. When the whole shall be isolated from its present 
surroundings by a massive wall, the work of restoration at 
Edfu will be accomplished."* 

That wall has not yet been built ; but the encroaching 

* Letter of M. Mariette to Vicomte E. de Rouge: " Revue Arclieolo- 
gique," vol. ii, p. 33,1860. 

SILSIL rS AND ED FV. .'5 63 

mound has been cut clean away all round the building, 
now standing free in a deep open space, the sides of which 
are in some places as perpendicular as the quarried cliffs 
of Silsilis. In the midst of this pit, like a risen god issu- 
ing from the grave, the huge building stands before us in 
the sunshine, erect and perfect. The effect at first sight 
is overwhelming. 

Through the great doorway, fifty feet in height, we catch 
glimpses of a grand court-yard, and of a vista of door- 
ways, one behind another. Going slowly down, we see 
farther into those dark and distant halls at every step. At 
the same time the pylons, covered with gigantic sculptures, 
tower higher and higher, and seem to shut out the sky. 
The custode — a pigmy of six foot t\vo,in semi-European dress 
— looks up grinning, expectant of backshish. For there 
is actually a custode here, and, which is more to the pur- 
pose, a good strong gate, through which neither pilfering 
visitors nor pilfering Arabs can pass unnoticed. 

Who enters that gate crosses the threshold of the past, 
and leaves two thousand years behind him. In these vast 
courts and storied halls all is unchanged. Every pave- 
ment, every column, every stair, is in its place. The roof, 
but for a few roofing-stones missing just over the sanctu- 
ary, is not only uninjured, but in good repair. The hie- 
roglyphic inscriptions are as sharp and legible as the day 
they were cut. If here and there a capital, or the face of 
a human-headed deity, has been mutilated, these are blem- 
ishes which at first one scarcely observes, and which in no 
wise mar the wonderful effect of the whole. We cross 
that great court-yard in the full blaze of the morning sun- 
light. In the colonnades on either side there is shade, and 
in the pillared portico beyond, a darkness as of night; 
save where a patch of deep-blue sky burns through a 
square opening in the roof, and is matched by a corre- 
sponding patch of blinding light on the pavement below. 
Hence we pass on through a hall of columns, two trans- 
verse corridors, a side chapel, a series of pitch-dark side 
chambers, and a sanctuary. Outside all these, surrounding 
the actual temple on three sides, runs an external corridor 
open to the sky, and bounded by a superb wall full forty 
feet in height. AVhen I have said that the entrance-front, 
with its twin pylons and central doorway, measures two 
hundred and fifty feet in width by one hundred and 


twenty-five feet in height ; that the first court-yard meas- 
ures more than one hundred and sixty feet in length hy 
one hundred and forty in width; that the entire length of 
the building is four hundred and fifty feet, and that it 
covers an area of eighty thousand square feet, I have stated 
facts of a kind which convey no more than a general idea of 
largeness to the ordinary reader. Of the harmony of the 
proportions, of the amazing size and strength of the indi- 
vidual parts, of the perfect workmanship, of the fine 
grain and creamy amber of the stone, no description can 
do more than suggest an indefinite notion. 

Edfu and Denderah may almost be called twin tem- 
ples. They belong to the same period. They are built 
very nearly after the same plan.* They are even allied 
in a religious sense ; for the myths of Horusf and Ha- 
thor;]; are interdependent; the one being the complement 
of the other. Thus, in the inscriptions of Edfu we find 
perpetual allusion to the cultus of Denderah, and vice versa. 
Both Edfu and Denderah are rich in inscriptions; but as the 
extent of wall-space is greater at Edfu, so is the literary 
wealth of this temple greater than the literary wealth of 
Denderah. It also seemed to me that the surface was 
more closely filled in at Edfu than at Denderah. Every 
wall, every ceiling, every pillar, every architrave, every 
passage and side-chamber, however dark, every staircase, 
every doorway, the outer wall of the temple, the inner side 
of the great wall of circuit, the huge pylons from top to 
bottom, are not only covered, but crowded, with figures 
and hieroglyphs. Among these we find no enormous 
battle-subjects as at Abou Simbel — no heroic recitals, like 

* Edfu is the elder temple; Denderah the copy. Where the 
architect of Denderah has departed from his model it has invariably 
been for the worse. 

f Horus: — " Dieu adore dans plusieurs nomes de la basse Egypte. 
Le personnage d'Horus se rattache sous des noms differents, a deux 
generations divines. Smis le nom de Haroeris il est ne de Seb et 
Nout, et par consequent frere d'Osiris, dont il est le fils sous un autre 
nom. . . . Horus, arme d'un dard avec lequel il transperce les 
ennemis d'Osiris, est appele Horus le Justicier." — "Diet. Arch.," 
P. Pierret, article "Horus." 

% Hathor: — " Elle est, comme Neith, Xaut, et Nout, la personnifi- 
cation de l'espace dans lequel se meut le soleil, dont Horus symbolize 
le lever: aussi son nom, Hathor, signifie-t-il litteralement, I' habita- 
tion d'Horus." — " Ibid.," article " Hathor." 


the poem of Pentaur. Those went out with the Pharaohs 
and ware succeeded by tableaux of religious rites and dia- 
logues of gods and kings. .Such are the stock subjects of 
Pto'oAiaic edifices. They abound at Denderah and Esneh, 
as veil as at Edfu. But at Edfu there are more inscrip- 
tions of a miscellaneous character than in any temple of 
Eg; pt; and it is precisely this secular information which 
is so priceless. Here are geographical lists of Nubian and 
Egyptian gnomes, with their principal cities, their products 
and their tutelary gods; lists of tributary provinces and 
princes; lists of temples and of lands pertaining thereunto; 
lists of canals, of ports, of lakes; calendars of feasts and 
fasts; astronomical tables; genealogies and chronicles of 
the gods; lists of the priests and priestesses of both Edfu 
and Denderah, with their names; lists also of singers and 
assistant functionaries ; lists of offerings, hymns, invoca- 
tions; and such a profusion of religious legends as make of 
the walls of Edfu alone a complete text-book of Egyptian 

No great collection of these inscriptions, like the " Den- 
derah " of Mariette, has yet been published; but every now 
and then some enterprising Egyptologist, such as M. 
Naville or M. Jacques de Rouge, plunges for awhile into 
the depths of the Edfu mine and brings back as much 
precious ore as he can carry. Some most singular and in- 
teresting details have thus been brought to light. One 
inscription, for instance, records exactly in what month 
and on what day and at what hour Isis gave birth to 
Horus. Another tells all about the sacred boats. We 
know now that Edfu possessed at least two ; and that one 
was called Hor-IIat, or The First Horus and the other Aa- 
Mafek, or Great of Turquoise. These boats, it would 
appear, were not merely for carrying in procession, but for 
actual use upon the water. Another text — one of the 
most curious — informs us that Hathor of Denderah paid 
an annual visit to Horus (or Hor-IIat) of Edfu and spent 
some days with him in his temple. The whole ceremonial 
of this fantastic trip is given in detail. The goddess trav- 
eled in her boat called Neb-Mer-t, or Lady of the Lake. 
Horus, like a polite host, went out in his boat Hor-Hat, to 

* " Rapport sur une Mission en Egypte." Vicomte E. de Rouge. 
See "Revue Arch. Nouvelle Serie," vol x, p. Go. 


meet her. The two deities with their attendants then 
formed one procession and so came to Edfu, where the 
goddess was entertained with a succession of festivals.* 

One would like to know whether Horns duly returned 
all these visits; and if the gods, like modern emperors, had 
a gay time among themselves. 

Other questions inevitably suggest themselves, sometimes 
painfully, sometimes ludicrously, as one paces chamber 
after chamber, corridor after corridor, sculptured all over 
with strange forms and stranger legends. What about 
these gods whose genealogies are so intricate ; whose 
mutual relations are so complicated ; who wedded and be- 
came parents; who exchanged visits and who even traveledf 
at times to distant countries? What about those who 
served them in the temples; who robed and unrobed them; 
who celebrated their birthdays and paraded them in stately 
processions and consumed the lives of millions in erecting 
these mountains of masonry and sculpture to their honor ? 
We know now with what elaborate rites the gods were 
adored; what jewels they wore; what hymns were sung in 
their praise. We know from what a subtle and philosoph- 
ical core of solar myths their curious personal adventures 
were evolved. We may also be quite sure that the hidden 
meaning of these legends was almost wholly lost sight of in 
the later days of the religion, \ and that the gods were 
accepted for what they seemed to be and not for what they 
were symbolized. What, then, of their worshipers ? Did 
they really believe all these things, or were any among 
them tormented with doubts of the gods ? Were there 
skeptics in those days, who wondered how two hierogram- 
mates could look each other in the face without laughing? 

The custode told us that there were two hundred and 
forty-two steps to the top of each tower of the propylon. 
We counted two hundred and twenty-four, and dispensed 
willingly with the remainder. It was a long pull; but had 
the steps been four times as many, the sight from the top 
would have been worth the climb. The chambers in the 

* " Textes Geograpbiques du Temple d'Edfou," by M. J. de 
Rouge. "Revue Arch.," vol. xii, p. 209. 

f See Professor Revillout's " Seconde Memoire sur les Blemmyes," 
1888, for an account of bow tbe statues of Isis and otber deities were 
taken once a year from tbe temples of Philae for a trip into Etbiopia. 

\ See Appendix III, " Religious Belief of tbe Ancient Egyptians." 


pylons are on a grand scale, with wide beveled windows 
like the months of monster letter boxes, placed at regular 
intervals all the way up. Through these windows the 
great flagstaffs and pennons were regulated from within. 
The two pylons communicate by a terrace over the central 
doorway. The parapet of this terrace and the parapets of 
the pylons above are plentifully scrawled with names, 
many of which were left there by the French soldiers 
of 1799. 

The cornices of these two magnificent towers are unfor- 
tunately gone ; but the total height without them is one 
hundred and twenty-five feet. From the top, as from the 
minaret of the great mosque at Damascus, one looks down 
into the heart of the town. Hundreds of mud huts 
thatched with palm-leaves, hundreds of little court-yards, 
lie mapped out beneath one's feet ; and as the fellah lives 
in his yard by day, using his hut merely as a sleeping- 
place at night, one looks down, like the Diable Boiteux, 
upon the domestic doings of a roofless world. We see 
people moving to and fro, unconscious of strange eyes 
watching them from above — men lounging, smoking, 
sleeping in shady corners — children playing — infants 
crawling on all fours — women cooking at clay ovens in the 
open air — cows and sheep feeding — poultry scratching and 
pecking — dogs basking in the sun. The huts look more 
like the lairs of prairie-dogs than the dwellings of human 
beings. The little mosque with its one dome and stunted 
minaret, so small, so far below, looks like a clay toy. 
Beyond the village, which reaches far and wide, lie barley 
fields, and cotton patches, and palm-groves, bounded on 
one side by the river, and on the other by the desert. A 
broad road, dotted over with moving specks of men and 
cattle, cleaves its way straight through the cultivated land 
and out across the sandy plain beyond. We can trace its 
course for miles where it is only a trodden track in the 
desert. It goes, they tell us, direct to Cairo. On the 
opposite bank glares a hideous white sugar factory, and, 
bowered in greenery, a country villa of the khedive. The 
broad Nile flows between. The sweet Theban hills gleam 
through a pearly haze on the horizon. 

All at once a fitful breeze springs up, blowing in little 
gusts and swirling the dust in circles round our feet. At 
the same moment, like a beautiful specter, there rises from 


the desert close by an undulating semi-transparent stalk of 
yellow sand, which grows higher every moment, and begins 
moving northward across the plain. Almost at the same 
instant, another appears a long way off toward the south, 
and a third conies gliding mysteriously along the opposite 
bank. While we are watching the third, the first begins 
throwing off a wonderful kind of plume, which follows it, 
waving and melting in the air. And now the stranger 
from the south comes up at a smooth, tremendous pace, 
towering at least five hundred feet above the desert, till, 
meeting some cross-current, it is snapped suddenly in 
twain. The lower half instantly collapses; the upper, after 
hanging suspended for a moment, spreads and floats 
slowly, like a cloud. In the meanwhile, other and smaller 
columns form here and there — stalk a little way — waver — 
disperse — form again — and again drop away in dust. 
Then the breeze falls, and puts an abrupt end to this 
extraordinary spectacle. In less than two minutes there is 
not a sand-column left. As they came, they vanish — 

Such is the landscape that frames the temple ; and the 
temple, after all, is the sight that one comes up here to see. 
There it lies far below our feet, the court-yard with its 
almost perfect pavement; the flat roof compact of gigantic 
monoliths ; the wall of circuit with its panoramic sculpt- 
ures ; the portico, with its screen and pillars distinct in 
brilliant light against inner depths of dark; each pillar a 
shaft of ivory, each square of dark a block of ebony. So 
perfect, so solid, so splendid is the whole structure; so 
simple in unity of plan ; so complex in ornament ; so 
majestic in completeness, that one feels as if it solved the 
whole problem of religious architecture. 

Take it for what it is — a Ptolemaic structure preserved 
in all its integrity of strength and finish — it is certainly the 
finest temple in Egypt. It brings before us, with even 
more completeness than Denderah, the purposes of its 
various parts and the kind of ceremonial for which it was 
designed. Every corridor and chamber tells its own story. 
Even the names of the different chambers are graven upon 
them in such wise that nothing* would be easier than to 

* Not only the names of the chambers, but their dimensions in 
cubits and subdivisions of cubits are given. Sec "Itineraife de la 
Haute Egypte." A. Marietta Bey. 1872, p. 241. 


reconstruct the ground-plan of the whole building in hiero- 
glyphic nomenclature. That neither the Ptolemaic build- 
ing nor the Ptolemaic mythus can be accepted as strictly 
representative of either pure Egyptian art or pure Egyptian 
thought, must of course be conceded. Both are modified 
by Greek influences, and have so far departed from the 
Pharaonic model. But then we have no equally perfect 
specimen of the Pharaonic model. The Ramesseum is but 
a grand fragment. Karnak and Medinet Hadu are aggre- 
gates of many temples and many styles. Abydos is still 
half-buried. Amid so much that is fragmentary, amid so 
much that is ruined, the one absolutely perfect structure- 
Ptolemaic though it be — is of incalculable interest, and 
equally incalculable value. 

While we are dreaming over these things, trying to fancy 
how it all looked when the sacred flotilla came sweeping up 
the river yonder and the procession of Hor-IIat issued 
forth to meet the goddess-guest — while we are half-expect- 
ing to see the whole brilliant concourse pour out, priests in 
their robes of panther-skin, priestesses with the tinkling sis- 
trum, singers and harpists, and bearers of gifts and 
emblems, and high functionaries rearing aloft the sacred 
boat of the god — in this moment a turbaned Mueddin 
comes out upon the rickety wooden gallery of the little 
minaret below, and intones the call to midday prayer. 
That plaintive cry has hardly died away before we see men 
here and there among the huts turning toward the east 
and assuming the first posture of devotion. The women go 
on cooking and nursing their babies. I have seen Moslem 
women at prayer in the mosques of Constantinople, but 
never in Egypt. 

Meanwhile, some children catch sight of us, and, not- 
withstanding that we are one hundred and twenty-five feet 
above their heads, burst into a frantic chorus of " back- 

And now, with a last long look at the temple and the 
wide landscape beyond, we come down, and go to see a dis- 
mal little Mammesi three-parts buried among a wilderness 
of mounds close by. These mounds, which consist almost 
entirely of crude-brick debris with imbedded fragments of 
stone and pottery, are built up like coral-reefs, and repre- 
sent the dwellings of some sixty generations. When they 
are cut straight through, as here round about the great 
temple, the substance of them looks like rich plum-cake. 




We had so long been the sport of destiny that we hardly 
knew what to make of our good fortune when two days of 
sweet south wind carried us from Edfu to Luxor. We 
came back to find the old mooring-place alive with daha- 
beeyahs and gay with English and American colors. These 
two flags well-nigh divide the river. In every twenty-five 
boats one may fairly calculate upon an average of twelve 
English, nine American, two German, one Belgian and 
one French. Of all these, our American cousins, ever 
helpful, ever cordial, are pleasantest to meet. Their flag 
stands to me for a host of bravo and generous and kindly 
associations. It brings back memories of many lands and 
many faces. It calls up echoes of friendly voices, some far 
distant; some, alas! silent. Wherefore — be it on the Nile, 
or the Thames, or the high seas, or among Syrian camp- 
ing-grounds, or drooping listlessly from the balconies of 
gloomy diplomatic haunts in continental cities — my heart 
warms to the stars and stripes whenever I see them. 

Our arrival brought all the dealers in Luxor to the sur- 
face. They waylaid and followed us wherever we went; 
while some of the better sort — grave men in long black 
robes and ample turbans — installed themselves on our 
lower deck and lived there for a fortnight. Go up-stairs 
when one would, whether before breakfast in the morning, 
or after dinner in the evening, there we always found 
them, patient, imperturbable, ready to rise up and salaam, 
and produce from some hidden pocket a purseful of scar- 
abs or a bundle of funerary statuettes. Some of these gen- 
tlemen were Arabs, some Copts — all polite, plausible and 

Where Copt and Arab drive the same doubtful trade it is 
not easy to define the shades of difference in their dealings. 
As workmen the Copts are perhaps the most artistic. As 

THEBES. 371 

salesmen the Arabs are perhaps the less dishonest. Both 
sell more forgeries than genuine antiquities. Be the de- 
mand what it may, they are prepared to meet it. Thothmes 
is not too heavy, nor Cleopatra too light, for them. Their 
carvings in old sycamore wood, their porcelain statuettes, 
their hieroglyphed limestone tablets, are executed with a 
skill that almost defies detection. As for genuine scarabs 
of the highest antiquity, they are turned out by the gross 
every season. Engraved, glazed and administered to the 
turkeys in the form of boluses, they acquire, by the simple 
process of digestion, a degree of venerableness that is really 

Side by side with the work of production goes on the 
work of excavation. The professed diggers colonize the 
western bank. They live rent free among the tombs; 
drive donkeys or work shadiifs by day and spend their 
nights searching for treasure. Some hundreds of families 
live in this grim way, spoiling the dead-and gone Egyptians 
for a livelihood. 

Forgers, diggers and dealers play, meanwhile, into one 
another's hands and drive a roaring trade. Your daha- 
beeyah, as I have just shown, is beset from the moment 
you moor till the moment you pole off again from shore. 
The boy who drives your donkey, the guide who pilots 
you among the tombs, the half-naked fellah who flings 
down his hoe as you pass and runs beside you for half a 
mile across the plain, have one and all an " anteekah " to 
dispose of. The turbaned official who comes, attended by 
his secretary and pipe-bearer, to pay you a visit of cere- 
mony, warns you against imposition, and hints at genuine 
treasures to which he alone possesses the key. The gentle- 
manly native who sits next to you at dinner has a wonder- 
ful scarab in his pocket. In short, every man, woman and 
child about the place is bent on selling a bargain; and the 
bargain, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, is valuable 
in so far as it represents the industry of Luxor — but no 
farther. A good thing, of course, is to be had occasion- 
ally; but the good thing never comes to the surface as long- 
as a market can be found for the bad one. It is only when 
the dealer finds he has to do with an experienced customer 
that he produces the best he has. 

Flourishing as it is, the trade of Luxor labors, however, 
under some uncomfortable restrictions. Private excava- 


tion being prohibited, the digger lives in dread of being 
found out by the governor. The forger, who has nothing 
to fear from the governor, lives in dread of being found 
out by the tourist. As for the dealer, whether he sells an 
antique or an imitation, he is equally liable to punishment. 
In the one case he commits an offense against the state ; 
and in the other, he obtains money under false pretenses. 
Meanwhile, the governor deals out such even-handed jus- 
tice as he can, and does his best to enforce the law on both 
sides of the river. 

By a curious accident, L and the writer once actu- 
ally penetrated into a forger's workshop. Not knowing 
that it had been abolished, we went to a certain house in 
which a certain consulate had once upon a time been 
located and there knocked for admission. An old deaf 
fellaha opened the door and after some hesitation showed 
us into a large unfurnished room with three windows. In 
each window there stood a workman's bench strewn with 
scarabs, amulets and funerary statuettes in every stage of 
progress. We examined these specimens with no little 
curiosity. Some were of wood; some were of limestone; 
some were partly colored. The colors and brushes were 
there; to say nothing of files, gravers and little pointed 
tools like gimlets. A magnifying glass of the kind used 
by engravers lay in one of the window recesses. We also 
observed a small grindstone screwed to one of the benches 
and worked by a treadle ; while a massive fragment of 
mummy-case in a corner behind the door showed whence 
came the old sycamore wood for the wooden specimens. 
That three skilled workmen furnished with European tools 
had been busy in this room shortly before we were shown 
into it was perfectly clear. We concluded that they had 
just gone away to breakfast. 

Meanwhile we waited, expecting to be ushered into the 
presence of the consul. In about ten minutes, however, 
breathless with hurrying, arrived a well-dressed Arab whom 
we had never seen before. Distracted between his oriental 
politeness and his desire to get rid of us, he bowed us out 
precipitately, explaining that the house had changed 
owners and that the power in question had ceased to be 
represented at Luxor. We heard him rating the old 
woman savagely, as soon as the door had closed behind us. 
I met that well-dressed Arab a day or two after, near the 

THEBES. 373 

governor's house, and lie immediately vanished round the 
nearest corner. 

The Boulak authorities keep a small gang of trained 
excavators always at work in the Necropolis of Thebes. 
These men are superintended by the governor and every 
mummy-case discovered is forwarded to Boulak unopened. 
Thanks to the courtesy of the governor, we had the good 
fortune to be present one morning at the opening of 
a tomb. He sent to summon us, just as we were going to 
breakfast. With what alacrity we manned the felucca and 
how we ate our bread and butter half in the boat and half 
on donkey-back, may easily be imagined. How well I 
remember that early-morning ride across the western plain 
of Thebes — the young barley rippling for miles in the sun; 
the little water-channel running beside the path ; the 
white butterflies circling in couples ; the wayside grave 
with its tiny dome and prayer-mat, its well and broken 
kulleh, inviting the passer-by to drink and pray; the wild 
vine that trailed along the wall ; the vivid violet of the 
vetches that blossomed unbidden in the barley. We had 
the mounds and pylons of Medinet Habu to the left— the 
ruins of the Ramesseum to the right — the colossi of the 
plain and the rosy western mountains before us all the way. 
How the great statues glistened in the morning light! 
How they towered up against the soft blue sky ! Battered 
and featureless, they sat in the old patient attitude, look- 
ing as if they mourned the vanished springs. 

We found the new tomb a few hundred yards in the rear 
of the Bamesseum. The diggers were in the pit; the gov- 
ernor and a few Arabs were looking on. The vault was 
lined with briGk-work above and cut square in the living rock 
below. We were just in time; for already, through the sand 
and rubble with which the grave had been filled in, there 
appeared an outline of something buried. The men, throw- 
ing spades and picks aside, now began scraping up the 
dust with their hands, and a mummy-case came gradually 
to light. It was shaped to represent a body lying at length 
with the hands crossed upon the breast. Both hands and 
face were carved in high relief. The ground-color of the 
sarcophagus was white ;* the surface covered with hiero- 

* This was, no doubt, an interment of the period of the twenty- 
third or twenty-fourth dynasty, the style of which is thus described 


glyphed legends and somewhat coarsely painted figures of 
four lesser gods of the dead. The face, like the hands, 
was colored a brownish-yellow and highly varnished. But 
for a little dimness of the gaudy hues, and a little flank- 
ing off of the surface here and there, the thing was as 
perfect as when it was placed in the ground. A small 
wooden box roughly put together lay at the feet of the 
mummy. This was taken out first, and handed to the 
governor, who put it aside without opening it. The mum- 
my-case was then raised upright, hoisted to the brink of 
the pit, and laid upon the ground. 

It gave one a kind of shock to see it first of all lying 
just as it had been left by the mourners ; then hauled out 
by rude hands, to be searched, unrolled, perhaps broken 
up as unworthy to occupy a corner of the Boulak collec- 
tion. Once they are lodged and catalogued in a museum, 
one conies to look upon these things as "specimens," and 
forgets that they once were living beings like ourselves. 
Bat this poor mummy looked startlingly human and pa- 
thetic lying at the bottom of its grave in the morning sun- 

After the sarcophagus had been lifted out, a small blue 
porcelain cup, a ball of the same material, and another 
little object shaped like a cherry, were found in the de- 
bris. The last was hollow, and contained something that 
rattled when shaken. The mummy, the wooden box, and 
these porcelain toys, were then removed to a stable close 
by; and the excavators, having laid bare what looked like 
the mouth of a bricked-up tunnel in the side of the tomb, 
fell to work again immediately. A second vault — perhaps 
a chain of vaults — it was thought would now be discov- 

We went away, meanwhile, for a few hours, and saw 
some of the famous painted tombs in that part of the 
mountain side just above, which goes by the name of 
Sheik Abd-el-Koorneh. 

by Mariette: '' Succedent lis misses a fond hlanc. Autour de cel- 
les ci court uiie legende en de toutes couleurs. Le 
devant du couvercle est divise horizontalenienl en tableaux ou alter- 
nent les representations el les textes traces en bieroglyphes verdatres. 
La momie elle-meme est hermetiquemenl ent'ennee dans un car- 
tonnage cousu par derriere et peint de couleurs tranchantes." — 
"Notice des Monuments a Boulak, p. 40. Paris, 1S72. 

THEBES. 375 

It was a hot climb ; the sun blazing overhead ; the cliffs 
reflecting light and heat ; the white debris glaring under 
foot. Some of the tombs up here are excavated in ter- 
races, and look from a distance like rows of pigeon-holes ; 
others are pierced in solitary ledges of rock; many are dif- 
ficult of access ; all are intolerably hot and oppressive. 
They were numbered half a century ago by the late Sir 
Gardner Wilkinson, and the numbers are there still. We 
went that morning into fourteen, sixteen, seventeen, and 

As a child " The Manners and Customs of the Ancient 
Egyptians" had shared my affections with " The Arabian 
Nights." I had read every line of the old six-volume 
edition over and over again. 1 knew every one of the six 
hundred illustrations by heart. Now I suddenly found 
myself in the midst of old and half-forgotten friends. 
Every subject on these wonderful walls was already familiar 
to me. Only the framework, only the coloring, only the 
sand under foot, only the mountain slope outside, were 
new and strange. It seemed to me that I had met all 
these kindly brown people years and years ago — perhaps in 
some previous stage of existence ; that I had walked with 
them in their gardens ; listened to the music of their lutes 
and tambourines; pledged them at their feasts. Here is the 
funeral procession that I know so well; and the trial scene 
after death, where the mummy stands upright in the 
presence of Osiris, and sees his heart weighed in the bal- 
ance. Here is that well-remembered old fowler crouch- 
ing in the rushes with his basket of decoys. One withered 
hand is lifted to his mouth; his lips frame the call; his thin 
hair blows in the breeze. I see now that he has placed 
himself to the leeward of the game ; but that subtlety 
escaped me in the reading days of my youth. Yonder I 
recognize a sculptor's studio into which I frequently peeped 
at that time. His men are at work as actively as ever; but 
I marvel that they have not yet finished polishing the sur- 
face of that red-granite colossus. This patient angler, 
still waiting for a bite, is another old acquaintance ; and 
yonder, I declare, is that evening party at which I was so 
often an imaginary guest! Is the feast not yet over? Has 
that late-comer whom we saw hurrying along just now in 
a neighboring corridor not yet arrived?" Will the musicians 
never play to the end of their concerto? Are those ladies 


still so deeply interested in the patterns of one another's 
ear-rings? It seems to me that the world has been stand- 
ing still in here for these last five-and-thirty years. 

Did I say five-and-thirty? Ah, me! I think we must 
multiply it by ten, and then by ten again, ere we come to 
the right figure. These people lived in the time of the 
Thothmcs and the Amenhoteps — a time upon which Rame- 
ses the Great looked back as we look back to the days of 
the Tudors and the Stuarts. 

From the tombs above we went back to the excavations 
below. The bricked-up opening had led, as the diggers 
expected, into a second vault ; and another mummy-case, 
half-crushed by a fall of debris, had just been taken out. 
A third was found later in the afternoon. Curiously 
enough, they were all three mummies of women. 

The governor was taking his luncheon with the first 
mummy in the recesses of the stable, which had been a 
fine tomb once, but reeked now with manure. He sat on 
a rug, cross-legged, with a bowl of sour milk before him 
and a tray of most uninviting little cakes. He invited me 
to a seat on his rug, handed me his own spoon, and did 
the honors of the stable as pleasantly as if it had been a 

I asked him why the excavators, instead of working 
among these second-class graves, were not set to search for 
the tombs of the kiugs of the eighteenth dynasty, supposed 
to be waiting discovery in a certain valley called the Valley 
of the West. He shook his head. The way to the Valley 
of the West, he said, was long and difficult. Men working 
there must encamp upon the spot ; and merely to supply 
them with water would be no easy matter. He was allowed, 
in fact, only a sum sufficient for the wages of fifty excava- 
tors ; and to attack the Valley of the West with less than 
two hundred would be useless. 

We had luncheon that morning, I remember, with the 
M. B.'s in the second hall of the Ramesseum. It was but 
one occasion among many; for the writer was constantly 
at work on that side of the river, and we had luncheon in 
one or other of the western temples every day. Yet that 
particular meeting stands out in my memory apart from 
the rest. I see the joyous party gathered together in the 
shade of the great columns — the Persian rugs spread on 
the uneven ground — the dragoman in his picturesque dress 

THEBES. 377 

going to and fro — the brown and tattered Arabs, squatting 
a little way off, silent and hungry-eyed, each with his 
string of forged scarabs, his imitation gods, or his bits of 
mummy-case and painted cartonnage for sale — the glow- 
ing peeps of landscape framed in here and there through 
vistas of columns — the emblazoned architraves laid along 
from capital to capital overhead, each block sculptured 
with enormous cartouches yet brilliant with vermilion and 
ultramarine— the patient donkeys munching all together at 
a little heap of vetches in one corner — the intense depths 
of cloudless blue above. Of all Theban ruins, the Rames- 
seum is the most cheerful. Drenched in sunshine, the 
warm limestone of which it is built seems to have mel- 
lowed and turned golden with time. No walls inclose it. 
No towering pylons overshadow it. It stands high, and 
the air circulates freely among those simple and beautiful 
columns. There are not many Egyptian ruins in which 
one can talk and be merry; but in the Eamesseum one may 
thoroughly enjoy the passing hour. 

Whether Rameses the Great was ever actually buried in 
this place is a problem which future discoveries may pos- 
sibly solve; but that the Eamesseum and the tomb of Osy- 
mandias were one and the same building is a point upon 
which I never entertained a moment's doubt. Spending 
day after day among these ruins; sketching now here, now 
there; going over the ground bit by bit, and comparing 
every detail, I came at last to wonder how r an identity so 
obvious could ever have been doubted. Diodorus was of 
course inaccurate; but then one as little looks for accuracy 
in Diodorus as in Homer. Compared with some of his 
topographical descriptions, the account he gives of the 
Eamesseum is a marvel of exactness. He describes* 
a building approached by two vast court-yards; a hall of 
pillars opening by way of three entrances from the second 
court-yard; a succession of chambers, including a sacred 
library; ceilings of azure " bespangled with stars;" walls 
covered with sculptures representing the deeds and tri- 
umphs of the king whom he calls Osymandias,f among 

* Diodorus, " Biblioth Hist.," Bk. i, cliap. iv. The fault of inac- 
curacy ought, however, to be charged to Hecataeus, who was the 
authority followed here by Diodorus. 

f Possibly the Smendes of Manetho, and the Ba-en-Ded whose 
cartouche is found by Brugsch on a sarcophagus in the museum at 


which are particularly noticed the assault of a fortress 
'•'environed by a river," a procession of captives without 
hands, and a series of all the gods of Egypt, to whom the 
king was represented in the act of making offerings; finally, 
against the entrance to the second court-yard, three 
statues of the king, one of which, being of Syenite granite 
and made "in a sitting posture," is stated to be not only 
" the greatest in all Egypt," but admirable above all others 
"for its workmanship and the excellence of the stone." 

Bearing in mind that what is left of the Eamesseum is, 
as it were, only the backbone of the entire structure, one 
can still walk from end to end of the building, and still 
recognize every feature of this description. We turn our 
backs on the wrecked towers of the first propylon; cross- 
ing what was once the first court-yard, we leave to the 
left the fallen colossus; we enter the second court-yard, and 
see before us the three entrances to the hall of pillars and 
the remains of two other statues; we walk up the 
central avenue of the great hall, and see above our 
heads architraves studded with yellow stars upon a 
ground color so luminously blue that it almost matches 
the sky; thence, passing through a chamber lined with 
sculptures, we come to the library, upon the door-jambs 
of which Champollion found the figures of Thoth and 
Saf, the lord of letters and the lady of the sacred books;* 
finally, among such fragments of sculptured decoration 
as yet remain, we find the king making offerings to a hiero- 
glyphed list of gods as well as to his deified ancestors; we 
see the train of captives, and the piles of severed hands; f 
and we discover an immense battle-piece, which is in fact 
a replica of the famous battle-piece at Abou Simbel. This 
subject, like its Nubian prototype, yet. preserves some of 
its color. The enemy are shown to be fair-skinned and 
light-haired, and wear the same Syrian robes; and the 
river, more green than that at Abou Simbel, is painted in 
zigzags in the same manner. The king, alone in his 

Vienna; see "Hist. d'Egypte," chap, x, p. 213, ed. 1859. Another 
claimant to this identification is found in a king named Se-Mentu, 
whose cartouches were found by Mariette on some small gold tablets 
at Tanis. 

* Letter xiv, p. 235, Lettres d'figypte; Paris, 1868. See also chap, 
xviii, of the present work; p. 319. 

\ See Champollion, Letter xiv, foot note, p. 418. 

T1IEBES. 370 

chariot, sends arrow after arrow against the flying foe. 
They leap into the river and swim for their lives. Some 
are drowned ; some cross in safety, and are helped out by 
their friends On the opposite bank. A red-haired chief, 
thus rescued, is suspended head downward by his soldiers, 
in order to let the water that he has swallowed run out of 
his mouth. The river is once more the Orontes; the city 
is once more Kadesh; the king is once more Kameses II; 
and the incidents are again the incidents of the poem of 
Pen tan r. 

The one wholly unmistakable point in the narrative is, 
however, the colossal statue of Syenite, the largest in 
Egypt. " * The siege and the river, the troops of captives 
are to be found elsewhere; but nowhere, save here, a colos- 
sus which answers to that description. This statue was 
larger than even the twin colossi of the plain. They 
measure eighteen feet three inches across the shoulders ; 
this measures twenty-two feet four inches. They sit 
about fifty feet high, without their pedestals ; this one 
must have lifted his head some ten feet higher still. " The 
measure of his foot,"' says Diodorus, "exceeded seven 
cubits ;" the Greek cubit being a little over eighteen 

* The sitting colossus of the Ramesseum was certainly the largest 
perfect statue in Egypt when Diodorus visited the Valley of the Nile, 
for the great standing colossus of Tanis had long before his time 
been cut up by Sheshonk 111 for building purposes; but that the 
Tanite colossus much exceeded the colossus of Ramesseum in height 
and bulk is placed beyond doubt by the scale of the fragments dis- 
covered by Mr. Petrie in the course of his excavations in 1884. Ac- 
cording to his very cautious calculations, the figure alone of the 
Tanite was nine hundred inches, or seventy-five feet, high; or some- 
where between seventj* and eighty feet. " To this," says Mr. Petrie, 
" we must add the height of the crown, which would proportionately 
be some fourteen and one-half feet. To this again must be added 
the base of the figure, which was thinner than the usual scale, being: 
only twenty-seven inches thick. Thus the whole block appears 
to have been about one thousand one hundred inches, or say 
ninety-two feet, high. This was, so far as is known, the largest 
statue ever executed." The weight of the figure is calculated by Mr. 
Petrie at about nine hundred tons; i. e. , one hundred tons more than the 
colossus of the Ramesseum. That it stood upon a suitable pedestal 
cannot be doubted; and with the pedestal, which can scarcely 
have been less than eighteen or twenty feet in height, the statue 
must have towered some one hundred and twenty feet above the level 
of the plain. See "Tanis," part i, pp. 22, 23. [Note to second 


inches in length. The foot of the fallen Rameses measures 
nearly eleven feet in length by four feet ten inches in 
breadth. This, also, is the only very large Theban colos- 
sus sculptured in the red syenite of Assuan.* 

Ruined almost beyond recognition as it is, one never 
doubts for a moment that this statue was one of the won- 
ders of Egyptian workmanship. It most probably repeated 
in every detail the colossi of Abou Simbel; but it surpassed 
them as much in finish of carving as in perfection of 
material. The stone is even more beautiful in color than 
that of the famous obelisks of Karnak; and is so close and 
hard in grain that the scarab-cutters of Luxor are said to 
use splinters of it, as our engravers use diamonds, for the 
points of their graving^ tools. The solid contents of the 
whole, when entire, are calculated at eight hundred and 
eighty-seven tons. How this astounding mass was trans- 
ported from Assuan, how it was raised, how it was over- 
thrown, are problems upon which a great deal of ingenious 
conjecture has been wasted. One traveler affirms that the 
wedge-marks of the destroyer are distinctly visible. 
Another, having carefully examined the fractured edges, 
declares that the keenest eye can detect neither wedge- 
marks nor any other evidences of violence. We looked for 
none of these signs and tokens. We never asked ourselves 
how or when the ruin had been done. It was enough that 
the mighty had fallen. 

Inasmuch as one can clamber upon and measure these 
stupendous fragments, the fallen colossus is more astonish- 
ing, perhaps, as a wreck than it would have been as 
a whole. Here, snapped across at the waist and flung 
helplessly back, lie a huge head and shoulders, to climb 
which is like climbing a rock. Yonder, amid piles of un- 
intelligible debris, we see a great foot, and, nearer the head, 
part of an enormous trunk, together with the upper halves 
of two huge thighs clothed in the usual shenti or striped 
tunic. The klaft or head-dress is also striped, and these 
stripes, in both instances, retain the delicate yellow color 
with which they were originally filled in. To judge from 

* The syenite colossus, of which the British Museum possesses the 
head, and which is popularly known as the Young Memnon, meas- 
ured twenty-four feet in height before it was broken up by the 

THEBES. 381 

the way in which this color was applied, one would say that 
the statue was tinted rather than painted. The surface- 
work, wherever it remains, is as smooth and highly fin- 
ished as the cutting of the finest gem. Even the ground 
of the superb cartouche, on the upper half of the arm, is 
elaborately polished. Finally, in the pit which it plowed 
out in falling, lies the great pedestal, hieroglyphed with 
the usual pompous titles of Barneses Mer-Amen. Diodorus, 
knowing nothing of Rameses or his style, interprets the 
inscription after his own fanciful fashion: "IamOsy- 
mandias, king of kings. If any would know how great I 
am and where I lie let him excel me in any of my works." 

The fragments of wall and shattered pylon that yet 
remain standing at the Ramesseum face northwest 
and southwest. Hence, it follows that some of the most 
interesting of the surface sculpture (being cut in very low 
relief) is so placed with regard to the light as to be actually 
invisible after midday. It was not till the occasion of my 
last visit, when I came early in the morning to make a cer- 
tain sketch by a certain light, that I succeeded in distin- 
guishing a single figure of that celebrated tableau,* on the 
south wall of the great hall, in which the Egyptians are 
seen to be making use of the testudo and scaling-ladder to 
assault a Syrian fortress. The wall scuptures of the 
second hall are on a bolder scale and can be seen at any 
hour. Here Thoth writes the name of Rameses on the 
egg-shaped fruit of the persea tree and processions of 
shaven priests carry on their shoulders the sacred boats of 
various gods. In the center of each boat is a shrine sup- 
ported by winged genii, or cherubim. The veils over 
these shrines, the rings through which the bearing-poles 
were passed and all the appointments and ornaments of the 
bari are distinctly shown. One seems here, indeed, to be 
admitted to a glimpse of those original shrines upon which 
Moses — learned in the sacred lore of the Egyptians — 
modeled, with but little alteration, his ark of the covenant. 

Next in importance to Karnak, and second in interest 
to none of the Theban ruins, is the vast group of build- 
ings known by the collective name of Medinet Habu. To 
attempt to describe these would be to undertake a task as 

* See wood-cut No. 340 in Sir G. Wilkinson's "Manners and Cus- 
turns of the Ancient Egyptians," vol. i, ed. 1871. 


hopeless as the description of Karnak. Such an attempt 
lies, at all events, beyond the compass of these pages, so 
many of which have already been given to similar sub- 
jects. For it is of the temples as of the mountains — no 
two are alike, yet all sound so much alike when described 
that it is scarcely possible to write about them without be- 
coming monotonous. In the present instance, therefore, I 
will note only a few points of special interest, referring 
those who wish for fuller particulars to the elaborate ac- 
count of Medinet Habu in Murray's " Hand-book of 

In the second name of Medinet Habu — Medinet being the 
common Arabic for city, and Habu, Aboo, or Taboo being 
variously spelled — there survives almost beyond doubt the 
ancient name of that famous city which the Greeks called 
Thebes. It is the name for which many derivations* 
have been suggested, but upon which the learned are not 
yet agreed. 

The ruins of Medinet Habu consist of a smaller temple 
founded by Queen Hatohepsu of the eighteenth dynasty, 
a large and magnificent temple entirely built by Kameses 
III of the twentieth dynasty, and an extremely curious 
and interesting building, part palace, part fortress, which 
is popularly known as the pavilion. 

The walls of this pavilion, the walls of the great fore- 
court leading to the smaller temple, and a corner of the 
original wall of circuit, are crowned in the Egyptian style 
with shield-shaped battlements, precisely as the Khetan 
and Amorite fortresses are battlemented in the sculptured 
tableaux at Abou Simbel and elsewhere. From whichever 
side one approaches Medinet Habu these stone shields 
strike the eye as a new and interesting feature. They are, 
moreover, so far as I know, the only specimens of Egyp- 
tian battlementing which have survived destruction. 
Those of the wall of circuit are of the time of Rame- 
ses V; those of the pavilion, of the time of Rameses 
III ; and the latest, which are those of the forecourt, are 
of the period of Roman occupation. 

* Among these are Abot, or abode; meaning the abode of Amen; 
Ta-Uaboo, the mound; Ta-Api, the head or capital, etc. See " Re- 
cherches sur le nom Egyptien de Thebes." Chabas: 1863; " Textes 
Geographiques d'Edfoo," J. de Rouge: " Revue Arch. Nouvelle 
Serie," vol. xii, I860; etc. 

THEBES. 383 

As biographical material, the temple and pavilion at 
Medinet Habu and the great Harris papyrus,* are to the 
life of Barneses III precisely what Abou Simbel, the 
Eamesseum, and the poem of Pentaur are to the life of 
Rameses II. Great wars, great victories, magnificent 
praises of the prowess of the king, pompons lists of ene- 
mies slain and captured, inventories of booty and of precious 
gifts offered by the victor to the gods of Egypt, in both 
instances cover the sculptured walls and fill the written 
pages. A comparison of the two masses of evidence — clue 
allowance being made both ways for oriental fervor of dic- 
tion — shows that in Rameses III we have to do with a 
king as brilliant, as valorous, and as successful as Rame- 
ses II. f 

* The "Great Harris Papyrus" is described by Dr. Birch as " one 
of the finest, best written and best preserved that has been dis- 
covered in Egypt. It measures one hundred and thirty-three feet 
long by sixteen and three-quarter inches broad, and was found with 
several others in a tomb behind Medinet Habu. Purchased soon 
after by the late A. C. Harris of Alexandria, it was subsequently un- 
rolled and divided into seventy-nine leaves and laid down on card- 
board. With tbe exception of some small portions which are want- 
ing in the first leaf, the text is complete throughout." The papyrus 
purports to be a post mortem address of the king, Rameses III, re- 
counting the benefits he had conferred upon Egypt by his adminis- 
tration, and by his delivery of the country from foreign subjection. 
It also records the immense gifts which he had conferred on the 
temples of Egypt, of Amen at TLebes, Turn at Heliopolis, and Ptah 
at Memphis, etc. " The last part is addressed to the officers of the 
army, consisting partly of Sardinian and Libyan mercenaries, and to 
the people of Egypt, in the thirty-second year of his reign, and is a 
kind of posthumous panegyrical discourse, or political will, like that 
of Augustus discovered by Ancyra. The papyrus itself consists of 
the following divisions, three of which are preceded by large colored 
plates or vignettes: Introduction: donations to the Tbeban deities; 
donations to the gods of Heliopolis; donations to the gods of Mem- 
phis; donations to the gods of the north and south; summary of 
donations; historical speech and conclusion. Throughout the mon- 
arch speaks in the first person, the list excepted." Introduction to 
"Annals of Rameses III;" S. Birch: " Records of the Past," vol. vi, 
p. 21; 1870. 

f " Rameses III was one of the most remarkable monarchs in the 
annals of Egypt. A period of political confusion and foreign con- 
quest of the country preceded his advent to the throne. His father, 
Setnecht, had indeed succeeded in driving out the foreign invaders 
and re-establishing the native dynasty of the Theban kings, the 
twentieth of the list of Manetho. But Rameses had a great task 


It may be that before the time of this Pharaoh certain 
temples were used also as royal residences. It is possible 
to believe this of temples such as Gournah and Abydus, 
the plan of which includes, besides the usual halls, side- 
chambers and sanctuary, a number of other apartments, 
the uses of which are unknown. It may also be that 
former kings dwelt in houses of brick and carved wood- 
work, such as we see represented in the wall-paintings of 
various tombs. 

It is, at all events, a fact that the only building which 
we can assume to have been a royal palace and of which 
any vestiges have come down to the present day, was 
erected by Eameses III, namely, this little pavilion at 
Medinet Habu. 

It may not have been a palace. It may have been only 
a fortified gate; but, though the chambers are small, they 
are well lighted and the plan of the whole is certainly 
domestic in character. It consists, as Ave now see it, of 
two lodges connected by zigzag wings with a central 

before him, called to the throne at a youthful age. . . . The 
first task of Rameses was to restore the civil government and military 
discipline. In the fifth year he defeated the Maxyes and Libyans 
with great slaughter when they invaded Egypt, led by five chiefs; 
and in the same year he had also to repulse the Satu, or eastern 
foreigners who had attacked Egypt. The maritime nations of the 
west, it appears, had invaded Palestine and the Syrian coast in his 
eighth year, and, after taking Carcheniish, a confederation of the 
Pulusata, supposed by some to be the Pelasgi, Tekkaru or Teucri, 
Sakalusa or Siculi, Tanau or Daunians, if not Danai, and Uasasa or 
Osci, marched to the conquest of Egypt. It is possible that they 
reached the mouth of the eastern branch of the Nile. But Rameses 
concentrated an army at Taha, in Northern Palestine, and marched 
back to defend the Nile. Assisted by his mercenary forces, he in- 
flicted a severe defeat on the confederated west, and returned with 
his prisoners to Thebes. In his eleventh year the Mashuasha or 
Maxyes, assisted by the Tahennu or Libyans, again invaded Egypt, 
to suffer a fresh defeat, and the country seems from this period to 
have remained in a state of tranquillity. . . . The vast temple 
at Medinet Habu, his palaces and treasury, still remain to attest his 
magnificence and grandeur; and if his domestic life was that of an 
ordinary Egyptian monarch, he was as distinguished in the battle- 
field as the palace. Treason, no doubt, disturbed his latter days, and 
it is not known how he died; but he expired after a reign of thirty- 
one years and some months, and left the throne to his son, it is sup- 
posed, about B. C. 1200." See " Remarks Upon the Cover of the 
Granite Sarcophagus of Rameses III:" S. Birch, LL.D., Cambridge, 



tower. The lodges and tower stand to each other as the 
three points of an acute angle. These structures inclose 
an obloug court-yard leading by a passage under the cen- 
tral tower to the inclosure beyond. So far as its present 
condition enables us to judge, this building contained only 
eight rooms; namely, three — one above the other in each of 
the lodges and two above the gateway.* These three 
towers communicate by means of devious passages in the 
connecting wings. Two of the windows in the wings are 
adorned with balconies supported on brackets; each 

bracket representing the head and shoulders of a crouching 
captive in the attitude of a gargoyle. The heads and 
dresses of these captives — conceived as they are in a vein 
of gothic barbarism — are still bright with color. 

The central or gateway tower is substantially perfect. 
The writer, with help, got as high as the first chamber; the 
ceiling of which is painted in a rich and intricate pattern, 
as in imitation of mosaic. The top room is difficult of ac- 

* ' ' There is reason to believe that this is only a fragment of the 
building, and foundations exist which render it probable that the 
whole was originally a square of the width of the front, and had 
other chambers, probably in wood or brick, besides those we now 
find. This would hardly detract from the playful character of the 
design, and when colored, as it originally was, and with its battle- 
ments or ornaments complete, it must have formed a composition 
as pleasing as it is unlike our usual conceptions of Egyptian art." — 
" Hist, of Architecture," by J. Fergusson, Bk. i, ch. iv, p. 118, 
Lond., 1865. 


cess, but can be reached by a good climber. Our friend 
F. W. S., who made his way up there a year or two before, 
found upon the walls some interesting sculptures of cups 
and vases, apparently part of an illustrated inventory of 
domestic utensils. Three of these (unlike any engraved in 
the works of Wilkinson or Eosellini) are here reproduced 
from his sketch made upon the spot. The lid of the 
smaller vase, it will be observed, opens by means of a lever 
spooned out for the thumb to rest in, just like the lid of a 
German beer-mug of the present day. 

The external decorations of the two lodges are of especial 
interest. The lower subjects are historical. Those upon 
the upper stories are domestic or symbolical, and are 
among the most celebrated of Egyptian bas-reliefs. They 
have long been supposed to represent Rameses III in his 
hareem, entertained and waited upon by female slaves. In 
one group the king, distinguished always by his cartouches, 
sits at ease in a kind of folding-chair, his helmet on his 
head, his sandaled feet upon a footstool, as one returned 
and resting after battle. In his left hand he holds a round 
object like a fruit. With the right he chucks under the 
chin an ear-ringed and necklaced damsel, who presents a 
lotus-blossom at his nose. In another much mutilated 
subject they are represented playing a game at draughts. 
This famous subject — which can only be seen when the 
light strikes sidewise — would scarcely be intelligible save 
for the help one derives from the cuts in Wilkinson and 
the plates in Roselliui. It is not that the sculptures are 
effaced, but that the great blocks which bore them are 
gone from their places, having probably been hurled down 
bodily upon the heads of the enemy during a certain siege 
of which the ruins bear evident traces.* Of the lady there 
remains little besides the arm and the hand that holds the 

* Medinet Habu continued, up to the period of the Arab invasion, 
to be inhabited by the Coptic descendants of its ancient builders. 
They tied, however, before Amr and his army, since which time the 
place has been deserted. It is not known whether the siege took 
place at the time of the Arab invasion, or during the raid of Cam- 
byses; but, whenever it was, the place was evidently forced by the 
besiegers. The author of Murray's " Hand-book " draws attention 
to the fact that the granite jambs of the doorway leading to the 
smaller temple are cut through exactly at the place where the bar 
was placed across the door. 

THEBES. 387 

pawn. The table has disappeared. The king has lost his 
legs. It happens, however, though the table is missing, 
that the block next above it contained the pawns, which 
can still be discerned from below by the help of a glass. 
Eosellini mentions three or four more subjects of a similar 
character, including a second group of draught-players, all 
visible in his time. The writer, however, looked for them 
in vain. 

These tableaux are supposed to illustrate the home-life 
of Rameses III, and to confirm the domestic character of 
the pavilion. Even the scarab-selling Arabs that haunt 
the ruins, even the donkey boys of Luxor, call it the 
hareem of the sultan. Modern science, however, threatens 
to dispel one at least of these pleasant fancies. 

The king, it seems, under the name of Ehampsinitus, is 
the hero of a very ancient legend related by Herodotus. 
While he yet lived, runs the story, he descended into 
hades, and there played a game at draughts with the 
Goddess Demeter, from whom he won a golden napkin; in 
memory of which adventure, and of his return to earth, 
" the Egyptians," says Herodotus, "instituted a festival 
which they certainly celebrated in my day."* In another 
version as told by Plutarch, Isis is substituted for Demeter. 
Viewing these tales by the light of a certain passage of the 
ritual, in which the happy dead is promised " power to 
transform himself at will, to play at draughts, to repose in 
a pavilion," Dr. Birch has suggested that the whole of this 
scene may be of a memorial character, and represent au 
incident in the land of shades. f 

Below these "hareem" groups come colossal bas-reliefs 

* Herodotus, Bk. ii, chap. 122. 

f"A Medinet Habou, dans son palais, il s'est fait representor 
jouant aux dames avec des femmes qui, d'apres certaines copies, 
semblent porter sur la tete les fleurs symboliques de l'Kgypte superi- 
eure et inferieure, comtue les deesses du monde superieur et in- 
ferieur, ou du ciel et de la terre. Cette dualite des deesses, qui est 
indiquee dans les scenes religieuses et les textes sacres par la reunion 
de Satis et Anoucis, Pasbt et Bast, Isis et Nepbthys, etc., me fait 
penser que les tableaux de Medinet Habou peuvent avoir ete consid- 
ered dans les legendes populaires coinme offrant aux yeux l'alle- 
gorie de la scene du jeu de dames entre le roi et la deesse Isis, dont 
Herodote a fait la Demeter Egypt ienne, comine il a fait d'Osiris le 
Dionysus du meme peuple." — " Le Roi Rbampsinite et le Jeu des 
Dames," par S. Birch, "Revue Arch: NouveJleSerie," vol. xii, p. 58. 
Paris: 1865. 


of a religious and military character. The king, as usual, 
smites his prisoners in presence of the gods. A slender 
and spirited figure in act to slay, the fiery hero strides 
across the wall "like Baal* descended from the heights of 
heaven. His limbs are indued with the force of victory. 
With his right hand he seizes the multitudes ; his left 
reaches like an arrow after those who fly before him. His 
sword is sharp as that of his father Mentu. "f 

Below these great groups run friezes sculptured with 
kneeling figures of vanquished chiefs, among whom are 
Libyan, Sicilian, Sardinian, and Etruscan leaders. Every 
head in these friezes is a portrait. The Libyan is beard- 
less ; his lips are thin ; his nose is hooked ; his forehead 
retreats; he wears a close-fitting cap with a pendant hang- 
ing in front of the ear. The features of the Sardinian 
chief % are no less Asiatic. He wears the usual Sardinian 
helmet surmounted by a ball and two spikes. The profile 
of the Sicilian closely resembles that of the Sardinian. He 
wears a head-dress like the modern Persian cap. As 
ethnological types, these heads are extremely valuable. 
Colonists not long since departed from the western coasts 
of Asia Minor, these early European settlers are seen with 
the Asiatic stamp of features ; a stamp which has now 
entirely disappeared. 

Other European nations are depicted elsewhere in these 

* Baal, written sometimes Bar, was, like Sutekh, a god borrowed 
from the Phoenician mythology. The worship of Baal seems to have 
been introduced into Egypt during the nineteenth dynasty. The 
other god here mentioned, Mentu or Month, was a solar deity adored 
in the Thebaic!, and especially worshiped at Hernionthis, now Er- 
ment; a modern town of some importance, the name of which is still 
almost identical with the Per-Mentu of ancient days. Mentu was 
the Egyptian, and Baal the Phoenician, god of war. 

f From one of the inscriptions at Medinet Halm, quoted by Chabas. 
See " Antiquite Historique," ch. iv, p. 238. Ed. 1873. 

% It is a noteworthy fact (and one which has not, so far as I know, 
been previously noticed) that while the Asiatic and African chiefs 
represented in these friezes are insolently described in the accompany- 
ing hieroglyphic inscriptions as "the vile Libyan," "the vile 
Kushite," " the vile Mashuasha," and so forth, the European leaders, 
though likewise prostrate and bound, and more respectfully desig- 
nated as "the Great of Sardinia," "the Great of Sicily," "the Great 
of Etruria," etc. May this be taken as an indication that their 
strength as military powers was already more formidable than that 
of the Egyptians' nearer neighbors? 

TllEBES. 389 

Medinet Habu sculptures. Pelasgians from the Greek 
isles; Oseans perhaps from Pompeii; Daunians from the 
districts between Tarentum and Bruudusium, figure here, 
each in their national costume. Of these, the Pelasgian 
alone resembles the modern European. On the left wall 
of the pavilion gateway, going up toward the temple, 
there is a large bas-relief of Kameses III leading a string of 
captives into the presence of Amen-Ra. Among these, the 
sculptures being in a high state of preservation, there are 
a number of Pelasgians, some of whom have features of 
the classical Greek type, and are strikingly handsome. 
The Pelasgic head-dress resembles our old infantry shako; 
and some of the men wear disk-shaped amulets pierced 
with a hole in the center through which is passed the chain 
that suspends it round the neck. 

Leaving to the left a fine sitting statue of Khons in 
green basalt and to the right his prostrate fellow, we pass 
under the gateway, cross a space of desolate crude-brick 
mounds, and see before us the ruins of the first pylon of 
the great Temple of Khem. Once past the threshold of 
this pylon we enter upon a succession of magnificent court- 
yards. The hieroglyphs here are on a colossal scale, and 
are cut deeper than any others in Egypt. They are also 
colored with a more subtle eye to effect. Struck by the 
unusual splendor of some of the blues and by a peculiar 
look of scintillation which they assumed in certain lights, I 
examined them particularly and found that the effect had 
been produced by very subtle shades of gradation in what 
appeared at first sight to be simple flat tints. In some of the 
reeds, for instance, the ground-color begins at the top of 
the leaf in pure cobalt, and passes imperceptibly down to a 
tint that is almost emerald green at the bottom.* 

The inner walls of this great court-yard and the outer 
face of the northeast wall, are covered with sculptures 
outlined, so to say, in intaglio, and relieved in the hollow, 
so that the forms, though rounded, remain level with the 
general surface. In these tableaux the old world lives 

* The grand blue of the ceiling- of the colonnade of the Great 
Hypsethral Court is also very remarkable for brilliancy and purity of 
tone; while to those interested in decoration the capital and abacus 
of the second column to the right on entering this court-yard, offers 
an interesting specimen of polychrome ornamentation on a gold- 
colored ground- 


again. Rameses III, his sons and nobles, his armies, his 
foes, play once more the brief drama of life and death. 
Great battles are fought; great victories are won; the slain 
are counted; the captured drag their chains behind the 
victor's chariot; the king triumphs, is crowned and sacri- 
fices to the gods. Elsewhere more wars, more slaughter. 
There is revolt in Libya; there are raids on the Asiatic 
border; there are invaders coming in ships from the islands 
of the Great Sea. The royal standard is raised; troops as- 
semble; arms are distributed. Again the king goes forth 
in his might, followed by the flower of Egyptian chivalry. 
" His horsemen are heroes; his foot-soldiers are as lions 
that roar in the mountains." The king himself flames 
" like Meutu in his hour of wrath." He falls upon the 
foe "with the swiftness of a meteor." Here, crowded in 
rude bullock-trucks, they seek safety in flight. Yonder, 
their galleys are sunk; their warriors are slain, drowned, 
captured, scathed, as it were, in a devouring fire. "Never 
again will they sow seed or reap harvest on the fair face of 
the earth." 

" Behold!" says the Pharaoh, "Behold! I have taken 
their frontiers for my frontiers! I have devastated their 
towns, burned their crops, trampled their people under 
foot. Rejoice, Egypt! Exalt thy voice to the heavens; 
for behold! I reign over all the lands of the barbarians! I, 
king of Upper and Lower Egypt, Rameses III ! " * 

Such, linked each to each, by a running commentary of 
text, are the illustrations. The story is written elsewhere. 
Elaborately hieroglyphed in upward of seventy closely 
packed columns, it covers the whole eastern face of the 
great north tower of the second propjdon. This propylou 
divides the Osiride and Hypaethral courts, so that the in- 
scription faces those entering the temple and precedes the 
tableaux. Xot even the poem of Pentaur is more pictur- 
esque, not even the psalms of David are more fervid, than 
the style of this great chronicle, f 

* Inscriptions at Medinet Halm. See Chabas' " Antiquite His- 
torique," chap. iv. Paris: 1876. 

f The whole of this chronicle is translated by M. Chabas in 
" L'Antiquite Historique," chap, iv, p. 246 et seq. It is also en- 
graved in full in Rosellini (" Monumenti Storici "); and has been 
admirably photographed by both M. Hammerschniidt and tsignor 

THEBES. 391 

The writer pitched her tent in the doorway of the first 
propylon, and thence sketched the northwest corner of the 
court-yard, including the tower with the inscription and 
the Osiride colossi. The roof of the colonnade to the 
right is cumbered with crude-brick ruins of mediaeval 
date. The hieroglyphs, sculptured along the architrave 
and down the sides of the pillars, are still bright with 
color. The colossi are all the worse for three thousand 
years of ill-usage. Through the sculptured doorway op- 
posite, one looks across the hypaethral court, and catches 
a glimpse of the ruined hall of pillars beyond. 

While the writer was at work in the shade of the first 
pylon, an Arab story-teller took possession of the opposite 
doorway, and entertained the donkey boys and sailors. 
Well paid with a little tobacco and a few copper piasters, 
he went on for hours, his shrill chant rising every now and 
then to a quavering scream. He was a wizened, grizzled 
old fellow, miserably poor and tattered; but he had the 
"Arabian Nights" and hundreds of other tales by 

Mariette was of opinion that the temple of Medinet 
Habu, erected as it is on the side of the great Theban 
necropolis, is like the Kamesseum, a funerary monument 
erected by Rameses III in his own lifetime to his own 
memory. These battered colossi represent the king in the 
character of Osiris, and are in fact on a huge scale pre- 
cisely what the ordinary funerary statuettes are upon a 
small scale. They would be out of place in any but a 
monumental edifice ; and they alone suffice to determine 
the character of the building. 

And such, no doubt, was the character of the Ameno- 
phium ; of the little temple called Dayr el Medinet ; of 
the temple of Queen Hatshepsu, known as Dayr el Ba- 
hari; of the temple of Gournah;of almostevery important 
structure erected upon this side of the river. Of the 
Amenophinm there remain only a few sculptured blocks, 
a few confused foundations, and — last representatives of 
an avenue of statues of various sizes— the famous colossi 
of the plain.* The temple of Dayr el Bahari — built in 

* These two statues — the best-known, probably, of all Egyptian 
monuments — have been too often described, painted, engraved and 
photographed, to need more than a passing reference. Their feature- 
less faces, their attitude, their surroundings, are familiar as the pyra- 


terraces up the mountain side, and approached once upon 
a time by a magnificent avenue of sphinxes, the course of 
which is yet visible — would probably be, if less ruined, the 
most interesting temple on the western side of the river. 
The monumental intention of this building is shown by 
its dedication to Hathor, the Lady of Amenti ; and by the 
fact that the tomb of Queen Hatshepsu was identified by 
Ehind some twenty-five years ago as one of the excavated 
sepulchers in the cliff-side, close to where the temple ends 
by abutting against the rock. 

As for the Temple of Gournah, it is, at least in part, as 
distinctly a memorial edifice as the Medici Chapel at 
Florence or the Superga at Turin. It was begun by Seti I 
in memory of his father Rameses I, the founder of the nine- 
teenth dynasty. Seti, however, died before the work was 
completed. Hereupon Rameses II, his son and successor, 
extended the general plan, finished the part dedicated 
to his grandfather, and added sculptures to the memory of 
Seti I. Later still, Meuepthah, the. son and successor of 
Rameses II, left his cartouches upon one of the doorways. 
The whole building, in short, is a family monument, and 
contains a family portrait gallery. Here all the personages 

raids, even to those who know not Egypt. We all know that they 
represent Amenhotep, or Amunoph 111; and that the northernmost 
was shattered to the waist by the earthquake of B. c. 27. Being 
heard to give out a musical sound during the first hour of 
the day, the statue was supposed by the ancients to be endowed 
witli a miraculous voice. The Greeks, believing it to represent the 
fabled son of Tithonus and Aurora, gave it the name of Memnon; 
notwithstanding that the Egyptians themselves claimed the statues 
as portraits of Amenhotep III. Prefects, consuls, emperors and 
empresses, came "to hear Memnon," as the phrase then ran. Among 
the famous visitors who traveled thither on this errand, we find 
Strabo, Germanicus, Hadrian and the Empress Sabina. Opinion is 
divided as to the cause of this sound. There is undoubtedly a hollow 
space inside the throne of this statue, as may be seen by all who 
examine it from behind; and Sir G. Wilkinson, in expressing his 
conviction that the musical sound was a piece of priestly jugglery, 
represents the opinion of the majority. The author of a carefully 
considered article in the Quarterly Meview, No. 276, April, 1875, 
coincides with Sir D. Brewster in attributing the sound to a trans- 
mission of rarefied air through the crevices of the stone, caused by 
the sudden change of temperature consequent on the rising of the 
sun. The statue, which, like its companion, was originally one solid 
monolith of gritstone, was repaired with sandstone during the reign 
of Septimius Severus, 

THEBES. 303 

whose names figure in the shrines of the Ramessides at 
Silsilis are depicted in their proper persons. In one tab- 
lean, Rameses I, defunct, deified, *swathed, enshrined, and 
crowned like Osiris, is worshiped by Seti I. Behind Seti 
stands his Queen Tuaa, the mother of Rameses II. Else- 
where Seti I, being now dead, is deified and worshiped 
by Rameses II, who pours a libation to his father's statue. 
Through all these handsome heads there runs a striking 
family likeness. All more or less partake of that Dantesque 
type which characterizes the portraits of Rameses II in his 
youth. The features of Rameses I and Seti I are some- 
what pinched and stern, like the Dante of elder days. The 
delicate profile of Queen Tuaa, which is curiously like some 
portraits of Queen Elizabeth, is perhaps too angular to be 
altogether pleasing. But in the well-known face of 
Rameses II these harsher details vanish, and the beauty of 
the race culminates. The artists of Egyptian renaissance, 
always great in profile-portraiture, are nowhere seen to 
better advantage than in this interesting series. 

Adjoining what may be called the monumental part of 
the building, we find a number of halls and chambers, the 
uses of which are unknown. Most writers assume that 
they were the private apartments of the king. Some go so 
far as to give the name of temple-palaces to all these great 
funerary structures. It is, however, far more probable 
that these western temples were erected in connection, 
though not in direct communication, with the royal tombs 
in the adjacent valley of Bab-el-Moiuk. 

Now every Egyptian tomb of importance has its outer 
chamber or votive oratory, the walls of which are covered, 
with paintings descriptive, in some instances, of the 
occupations of the deceased upon earth, and in others of 

* This deification of the dead was not deification in the Roman 
sense ; neither was it canonization in the modern sense. The 
Egyptians believed the justified dead to be assimilated, or rather 
identified, in the spirit, with Osiris, the beneficient judge and deity 
of the lower world. Thus, in their worship of ancestry, they 
adored not mortals immortalized, but the dead in Osiris, and Osiris 
in the dead. 

It is worth noting, by the way, that notwithstanding the subse- 
quent deification of Seti I, Rameses I remained, so to say, the tutelary 
saint of the temple. He alone is represented with the curious 
pointed and upturned beard, like a chamois horn reversed, which is 
the peculiar attribute of deity. 


the adventures of his soul after death. Here at stated 
seasons the survivors repaired with offerings. No priest, 
it would seem, of necessity officiated at these little services. 
A whole family would come, bringing the first fruits of 
their garden, the best of their poultry, cakes of home- 
made bread, bouquets of lotus blossoms. With their own 
hands they piled the altar ; and the eldest son, as repre- 
sentative of the rest, burned the incense and poured the 
libations. It is a scene constantly reproduced upon monu- 
ments* of every epoch. These votive oratories, however, 
are wholly absent in the valley of Bab-el-Moluk. The 
royal tombs consist of only tunneled passages and sepul- 
chral vaults, the entrances to which were closed forever as 
soon as the sarcophagus was occupied ; hence, it may be 
concluded that each memorial temple played to the tomb 
of its tutelary saint and sovereign that part which is played 
by the external oratory attached to the tomb of a private 
individual. Nor must it be forgotten that as early as the 
time of the pyramid kings, there was a votive chapel 
attached to every pyramid, the remains of which are trace- 
able in almost every instance, on the east side. There 
were also priests of the pyramids, as we learn from innu- 
merable funerary inscriptions. 

An oratory on so grand a scale would imply an elaborate 
ceremonial. A dead and deified king would doubtless 
have his train of priests, his daily liturgies, processions, 
and sacrifices. All this again implies additional accommo- 
dation, and accounts, I venture to think, for any number 
of extra halls and chambers. Such sculptures as yet 
remain on the walls of these ruined apartments are, in fact, 
wholly funereal and sacrificial in character. It is also 
to be remembered that we have here a temple dedicated to 

* There is among 1 the funereal tablets of the Boulak collection a 
small bas-relief sculpture representing the arrival of a family of 
mourners at the tomb of a deceased ancestor. The statue of the 
defunct sits at the upper end. The mourners are laden with offer- 
ings. One little child carries a lamb; another a goose. A scribe 
stands by, waiting to register the gifts. The tablet commemorates one 
Psamtik-nefar-Sam, a hierogrammate under some king of the twenty- 
sixth dynasty. The natural grace and simple pathos with which 
this little frieze is treated lift it far above the level of ordinary 
Egyptian art, and bear comparison with the class of monuments 
lately discovered on the Eleusinian road at Athens. 

THEBES. 395 

two kings, and served most likely by a twofold college of 

The wall-sculptures at Gournah are extremely beautiful, 
especially those erected by Seti I. Where it has been 
accidentally preserved, the surface is as smooth, the execu- 
tion as brilliant, as the finest mediaeval ivory carving. 
Behind a broken column, for instance, that leans against 
the southwest wall of the sanctuary, f one may see, by 
peeping this way and that, the ram's-nead prow of a sacred 
boat, quite unharmed, and of surpassing delicacy. The 
modeling of the ram's head is simply faultless. It would 
indeed be scarcely too much to say that this one fragment, 
if all the rest had perished, would alone place the decora- 
tive sculpture of ancient Egypt in a rank second only to 
that of Greece. 

The Temple of Gournah — northernmost of the Theban 
group — stands at the mouth of that famous valley called 
by the Arabs Bab-el-Mol1ik,J and by travelers, the Valley 
of the Tombs of the Kings. This valley may be described 
as a bifurcated ravine, ending in two cuts de sac, and 
hemmed in on all sides by limestone precipices. It winds 
round behind the cliffs which face Luxor and Karnak, and 
runs almost parallel with the Nile. This range of cliffs is 
perforated on both sides with tombs. The priests and 
nobles of many dynasties were buried terrace above terrace 
on the side next the river. Back to back with them, in 
the silent and secret valley beyond, slept the kings in their 
everlasting sepulchers. 

Most travelers moor for a day or two at Karnak, and 
thence make their excursion to Bab-el-Moluk. By so doing 
they lose one of the most interesting rides in the neighbor- 
hood of Thebes. L and the writer started from Luxor 

one morning about an hour after daybreak, crossing the river 
at the usual point and thence riding northward along the 

* " Une dignite tout a fait particulier est celle que les inscriptions 
hieroglyphiques designent par le titre ' prophete de la pyrarnide, de 
tel Pharaon.' II parait qu'apres sa mort chaque roi etait venere par 
un culte special." " Histoire d'Egypte:" Brugsch. 2d ed., chap, 
v., p. 35. Leipzig: 1875. 

f There is a very curious window at the end of this sanctuary, with 
grooves for the shutter, and holes in which to slip and drop the bar 
by which it was fastened. 

\ The Gate of the King. 


bank, with the Nile on the one hand, and the corn-lands 
on the other. In the course of such rides one discovers 
the almost incredible fertility of the Thebaid. Every inch 
of arable ground is turned to account. All that grows, 
grows lustily. The barley ripples in one uninterrupted 
sweep from Medinet Habu to a point half-,way between 
the Ram esse urn and Gournah. Next come plantations of 
tobacco, cotton, hemp, linseed, maize and lentils, so 
closely set, so rich in promise, that the country looks as if 
it were laid out in allotment grounds for miles together. 
"Where the rice crop has been gathered, clusters of tempo- 
rary huts have sprung up in the clearings ; for the fellahin 
come out from their crowded villages in " the sweet o' the 
year," and live in the midst of the crops which now they 
guard, and which presently they will reap. The walls of 
these summer huts are mere wattled fences of Indian corn 
straw, with bundles of the same laid lightly across the top 
by way of roofing. This pastoral world is everywhere up 
and doing. Here are men plying the shadtif by the river's 
brink ; women spinning in the sun ; children playing; dogs 
barking; larks soaring and singing overhead. Against 
the foot of the cliffs yonder, where the vegetation ends 
and the tombs begin, there flows a calm river edged 
with palms. A few months ago, we should have been de- 
ceived by that fairy water. AYe know now that it is the 

Striking off by and by toward the left, we make for a 
point where the mountains recede and run low, and a 
wedge-like "spit" of sandy desert encroaches upon "the 
plain. On the verge of this spit stands a clump of syca- 
mores and palms. A row of old yellow columns support- 
ing a sculptured architrave gleams through the boughs; a 
little village nestles close by: and on the desert slope beyond, 
in the midst of the desolate Arab burial-ground, we see a 
tiny mosque with one small cupola, dazzling white in the 
sunshine. This is Gournah. There is a spring here, and 
some girls are drawing water from the well near the tem- 
ple. Our donkeys slake their thirst from the cattle- 
trough — a broken sarcophagus that may once have held 
the mummy of a king. A creaking sakkieh is at work 
yonder, turned by a couple of red cows with mild Hathor- 
like faces. The old man who drives them sits in the mid- 
dle of the cog-wheel, and goes slowly round as if he was 
being roasted. 


We now leave behind us the well, and the trees, and the 
old Greek-looking temple, and turn our faces westward, 
bound for an opening yonder among cliffs pitted with the 
mouths of empty tombs. It is plain to see that we are 
now entering upon what was once a torrent-bed. Rushing 
down from the hills, the pent-up waters have here spread 
fan-like over the slope of the desert, strewing the ground 
with bowlders, and plowing it into hundreds of tortu- 
ous channels. Up that torrent-bed lies our road to-day. 

The weird rocks stand like sentinels to right and left as 
one enters the mouth of the valley, and take strange 
shapes as of obelisks and sphinxes. Some, worn at the 
base, and towering like ruined pyramids above, remind us 
of tombs on the Appian Way. As the ravine narrows, the 
limestone walls rise higher. The chalky track glares 
under foot. Piles of shivered chips sparkle and scintillate 
at the foot of the rocks. The cliffs burn at a white heat. 
The atmosphere palpitates like gaseous vapor. The sun 
blazes overhead. Not a breath stirs; neither is there a 
finger's breadth of shade on either side. It is like rid- 
ing into the mouth of a furnace. Meanwhile, one looks 
in vain for any sign of life. No blade of green has grown 
here since the world began. No breathing creature makes 
these rocks its home. All is desolation — such desolation 
as one dreams of in a world scathed by fire from heaven. 

When we have gone a long way, always tracking up the 
bed of the torrent, we come to a place where our donkeys 
turn off from the main course and make for what is evi- 
dently a forced passage cut clean through a wall of solid 
limestone. The place was once a mere recess in the cliffs; 
but on the farther side, masked by a natural barrier of 
rocks, there lay another valley leading to a secluded amphi- 
theater among the mountains. The first Pharaoh who 
chose his place of burial among those hidden ways, must 
have been he who cut the pass and leveled the road by 
which we now travel. This cutting is Bab-el-Moluk — the 
gate of the king; a name which doubtless perpetuates that 
by which the place was known to the old Egyptians. 
Once through the gate, a grand mountain rises into view. 
Egypt is the land of strange mountains; and here is one 
which reproduces on a giant scale every feature of the pyr- 
amid of Ouenephes at Sakkarah. It is square; it rises 
stage above stage in ranges of columnar cliffs with slopes 


of debris between; and it terminates in a blunt four-sided 
peak nearly eighteen hundred feet above the level of the 

Keeping this mountain always before us, we now follow the 
windings of the second valley, which is even more narrow, 
parched and glaring than the first. Perhaps the intense 
heat makes the road appear longer than it really is, but it 
seems to us like several miles. At length the uniformity 
of the way is broken. Two small ravines branch off, one 
to the right, one to the left, and in both, at the foot of the 
rocks, there are here and there to be seen square openings 
like cellar-doors, half-sunk below the surface, and seeming 
to shoot downward into the bowels of the earth. In another 
moment or so, our road ends suddenly in a wild, tumbled 
waste like an exhausted quarry, shut in all round by im- 
pending precipices, at the base of which more rock-cut 
portals peep out at different points. 

From the moment when it first came into sight I had 
made certain that in that pyramidal mountain we should 
find the tombs of the kings — so certain, that I can scarcely 
believe our guide when he assures us that these cellars are 
the places we have come to see, and that the mountain con- 
tains not a single tomb, AVe alight, however, climb a steep 
slope, and find ourselves on the threshold of number seven- 

" Belzoni-tomb," says our guide; and Belzoni's tomb, as 
we know, is the tomb of Seti I. 

I am almost ashamed to remember now that we took our 
lunches in the shade of that solemn vestibule, and rested 
and made merry before going down into the great gloomy 
sepulcher, whose staircases and corridors plunged away 
into the darkness below as if they led straight to the land 
of Amenti. 

The tombs in the Valley of Bab-el-Moluk are as unlike 
tombs in the cliffs opposite Luxor as if the Theban kings 
and the Theban nobles were of different races and creeds. 
Those sacred scribes and dignitaries, with their wives and 
families and their numerous friends and dependents, were a 
joyous set. They loved the things of this life, and would 
fain have carried their pursuits and pleasures with them 
into the land beyond the grave. So they decorated the 
walls of their tombs with pictures of the way in which 
their lives were spent, and hoped perhaps that the mummy, 

THEBES. 390 

dreaming away its long term of solitary waiting, might 
take comfort in those shadowy reminiscences. The kings, 
on the contrary, covered every foot of their last palaces 
with scenes from the life to come. The wanderings of the 
soul after its separation from the hody, the terrors and 
dangers that beset it during its journey through hades, the 
demons it must fight, the accusers to whom it must an- 
swer, the transformations it must undergo, afforded sub- 
jects for endless illustration. Of the fishing and fowl- 
ing and feasting and junketing that we saw the other day 
in those terraces behind the Ramesseum, we discover no 
trace in the tombs of Bab-el-Moluk. In place of singing 
and lute-playing we find here prayers and invocations; for 
the pleasant Nile boat and the water parties and the chase 
of the gazelle and the ibex, we now have the bark of 
Charon and the basin of purgatorial fire and the strife 
with the infernal deities. The contrast is sharp and strange. 
It is as if an epicurean aristocracy had been ruled by a 
line of Puritan kings. The tombs of the subjects are Ana- 
creontics. The tombs of their sovereigns are penitential 

To go down into one of those great sepulchers is to de- 
scend one's self into the lower world and to tread the path 
of the shades. Crossing the threshold we look up — half 
expecting to read those terrible words in which all who 
enter are warned to leave hope behind them. The passage 
slopes before our feet ; the daylight fades behind us. At 
the end of the passage comes a Might of steps, and from 
the bottom of that flight of steps we see another corridor 
slanting down into depths of utter darkness. The walls on 
both sides are covered with close-cut columns of hiero- 
glyphic text, interspersed with ominous shapes, half-deity, 
half-demon. Huge serpents writhe beside us along the 
walls. Guardian spirits of threatening aspect advance, 
brandishing swords of flame. A strange heaven opens 
overhead — a heaven where the stars travel in boats across 
the seas of space; and the sun, escorted by the hours, 
the months and the signs of the zodiac, issues from 
the east, sets in the west and traverses the hemisphere of 
everlasting night. We go on and the last gleam of day- 
light vanishes in the distance. Another flight of steps 
leads now to a succession of passages and halls, some 
smaller, some larger, some vaulted, some supported on 


pillars. Here yawns a great pit half-full of debris. Yonder 
opens a suite of unfinished chambers abandoned by the 
workmen. The farther we go the more weird become our 
surroundings. The walls swarm with ugly and evil things. 
Serpents, bats and crocodiles, some with human heads and 
legs, some vomiting fire, some armed with spears and darts, 
pursue and torture the wicked. These unfortunates have 
their hearts torn out; are boiled in caldrons; are sus- 
pended, head downward, over seas of flame; are speared, 
decapitated and driven in headless gangs to scenes of further 
torment. Beheld by the dim and shifting light of a few 
candles, these painted horrors assume an aspect of ghastly 
reality. They start into life as we pass, then drop behind 
us into darkness. That darkness alone is awful. The at- 
mosphere is suffocating. The place is ghostly and peopled 
with nightmares. 

Elsewhere we come upon scenes less painful. The sun 
emerges from the lower hemisphere. The justified dead sow 
and reap in the Elysian fields, gather celestial fruits, and 
bathe in the waters of truth. The royal mummy reposes in 
its shrine. Funerary statues of the king are worshiped 
with incense and offerings of meat and libations of wine.* 
Finally the king arrives, purified and justified, at the last 
stage of his spiritual journey. He is welcomed by the gods, 
ushered into the presence of Osiris, and received into the 
abode of the blest, f 

* These funerary statues are represented each on a stand or plat- 
form, erect, with one foot advanced, as if walking, the right hand 
holding the ankh, or symbol of life, the left hand grasping a 
staff. The attitude is that of the wooden statue at Boulak; and it is 
worth remark that the figures stand detached, with no support at 
the back, which was never the case with those carved in stone or 
granite. There can be no doubt that this curious series of funerary 
statues represent those which were actually placed in the tomb; and 
that the ceremonies here represented were actually performed before 
them, previous to closing the mouth of the sepulcher. One of these 
very wooden statues, from this very tomb, was brought to England 
by Belzoni, and is now in the British Museum (No. 854, Central 
Saloon). The wood is much decayed, and the statue ought undoubt- 
edly to be placed under glass. The tableaux representing the above 
ceremonies are well copied in Kosellini, " Mon. del Culto," plates 

f A remarkable inscription in this tomb, relating the wrath of Ra 
and the destruction of mankind, is translated by M. Naville, vol. iv, 
Ft. i, " Translations of the Biblical Arch. Society." In this singular 

THEBES. 401 

Coming out for a moment into blinding daylight, wo 
drink a long draught of pure air, cross a few yards of 
uneven ground, arrive at the mouth of another excavation, 
and plunge again into underground darkness. A third and 
a fourth time we repeat this strange experience. It is like 
a feverish sleep, troubled by gruesome dreams and broken 
by momentary wakings. These tombs in a general way 
are very much alike. Some are longer than others;* some 
loftier. In some the descent is gradual; in others it is 
steep and sudden. Certain leading features are common 
to all. The great serpent,f the scarab,! the bat,§ the 
crocodile,! are always conspicuous on the walls. The 
judgment-scene, and "the well-known typical picture cf the 
four races of mankind, are continually reproduced. Some 
tombs, ^[ however, vary both in plan and decoration. That 

myth, which bears a family resemblance to the Chaldaean record of 
the flood, the deluge is a deluge of human blood. The inscription 
covers the walls of a small chamber known as the Chamber of the 

* The longest tomb in the valley, which is that of Seti I, measures 
four hundred and seventy feet in length to the point where it is closed 
by the falling in of the rock; and the total depth of its descent is 
about one hundred and eighty feet. The tomb of Rameses III (No. 
11) measures in length four hundred and five feet, and descends only 
thirty-one feet. The rest average from about three hundred and 
fifty to one hundred and fifty feet in length, and the shortest is 
excavated to a distance of only sixty-five feet. 

We visited, however, one tomb in the Assaseef, which in extent 
far exceeds any of the tombs of the kings. This astonishing 
excavation, which consists of a bewildering labyrinth of halls, pas^ 
sages, staircases, pits and chambers, is calculated at twenty-three 
thousand eight hundred and nine square feet. The name of the 
occupant was Petamunap, a priest of uncertain date. 

f Apophis, in Egyptian Apap; the great serpent of darkness, over 
whom Ra must triumph after he sets in the west, and before he 
again rises in the east. 

% Kheper, the scarab deity. See chap, vi, p. 90. 

§ Symbolical of darkness. 

| The crocodile represents Sebek. In one of the Boulak papyri, 
this god is called the son Isis, and combats the enemies of Osiris! 
Here he combats Apophis in behalf of Ra. 

T The tomb numbered three in the first small ravine to the left as 
one rides up the valley bears the cartouches of Rameses II. The writer 
crawled in as far as the choked condition of the tomb permitted, but 
the passage becomes quite impassable after the first thirty or forty 
yards. ' ' 


of Rameses III, though not nearly so beautiful as the tomb 
of Seti I, is perhaps the most curious of all. The paint- 
ings here are for the most part designed on an unsculpt- 
ured surface coated with white stucco. The drawing is 
often indifferent, and the coloring is uniformly coarse and 
gaudy. Yellow abounds; and crude reds and blues remind 
us of the colored picture-books of our childhood. It is 
difficult to understand, indeed, how the builder of Medinet 
Habu, with the best Egyptian art of the day at his com- 
mand, should have been content with such wall-paintings 
as these. 

Still Barneses III seems to have had a grand idea of 
going in state to the next world, with his retainers around 
him. In a series of small ante-chambers opening off from 
the first corridor we see depicted all the household fur- 
niture, all the plate, the weapons, the wealth and treasure 
of the king. Upon the walls of one the cooks and bakers 
are seen preparing the royal dinner. In the others are 
depicted magnificent thrones ; gilded galleys with party- 
colored sails; gold and silver vases; rich stores of arms and 
armor; piles of precious woods, of panther skins, of fruits 
and birds and curious baskets, and all such articles of per- 
sonal luxury as a palace-building Pharaoh might delight 
in. Here, also, are the two famous harpers ; cruelly 
defaced, but still sweeping the strings with the old power- 
ful touch that erewhile soothed the king in his hours of 
melancholy. These two spirited figures — which are un- 
doubtedly portraits* — almost redeem the poverty of the 
rest of the paintings. 

In many tombs the empty sarcophagus yet occupies its 
ancient place. f We saw one in No. 2 (Rameses IV), and 

* When first seen by Sir G. Wilkinson, these harpers were still in 
such good preservation that he reported of one, at least, if not both, 
as obviously blind. The harps are magnificent, richly inlaid and 
gilded, and' adorned with busts of tbe king. One has eleven strings, 
the other fourteen. 

f The sarcophagus of Seti I, which was brought to England by 
Belzoni, is in Sir J. Soane's Museum. It is carved from a single 
block of the finest alabaster, and is covered with incised hieroglyphic 
texts and several hundred figures, descriptive of the passage of the 
sun through the hours of the night. See " Le Sarcophagede Seti I." 
P. Pierret. " Revue Arch.," vol. xxi, p. 285: 1870. The sarcoph- 
agus of Rameses III is in the Fitz- William Museum, Cambridge, 
and the lid thereof is in the Egyptian collection of the Louvre. See 


another in No. 9 (Rameses VI) ; the first, a grand mono- 
lith of dark granite, overturned and but little injured; the 
second, shattered by early treasure-seekers. 

Most of the tombs at Bab-el-Moh'ik were open in Ptole- 
maic times. Being then, as now, among the stock sights 
and wonders of Thebes, they were visited by crowds of 
early travelers, who have, as usual, left their neatly scrib- 
bled graffiti on the walls. When and by whom the sepul- 
chers were originally violated is of course unknown. 
Some, doubtless, were sacked by the Persians; others were 
plundered by the Egyptians themselves, long enough 
before Cambyses. Not even in the days of the Rames- 
sides, though a special service of guards was told off for 
duty in "the great valley," were the kings safe in their 
tombs. During the reign of Rameses IX — whose own 
tomb is here and known as No. G — there seems to have 
been an organized band, not only of robbers, but of receiv- 
ers, who lived by depredations "of the kind. A contem- 
porary papyrus* tells how, in one instance, the royal 
mummies were found lying in the dust, their gold and 
silver ornaments and the treasures of their tombs all stolen. 

"Remarks on the Sarcophagus of Rameses III." S. Birch, LL.D.; 
Cambridge, 1876. Also "Notice Sommaire des Monuments Egyp- 
tiens du Louvre." E. De Rouge, p. 51: Paris, 1878. 

* Abbot Papyrus, British Museum. This papyrus, which has been 
translated by M. Chabas (" Melanges Egyptologiques," 3d Serie: 
Paris and Chalon, 1870), gives a list of royal tombs inspected by an 
Egyptian Commission in the month of Athyr (year unknown) during 
the reign of Barneses IX. Among the tombs visited on this occasion 
mention is especially made of "the funeral monument of the king 
En-Aa, which is at the north of the Amenophium of the terrace. 
The monument is broken into from the back, at the place where the 
stela is placed before the monument, and having the statue of the 
king upon the front of the stela, with his hound, named Bahuka, 
between his legs. Verified this day, and found intact." Such was 
the report of the writer of this papyrus of 3000 years ago. And 
now comes one of the wonders of modern discovery. It was but a 
few years ago that Mariette, excavating in that part of the Necropolis 
called the Assaseef, which lies to the north of the ruins of the 
Amenophium. discovered the remains of the tomb of this very king, 
and the broken stela bearing upon its face a full-length bas-relief of 
King En-Aa (or Entef-Aa), with three dogs before him and one 
between his legs; the dog Bahuka having his name engraved over 
his back in hieroglyphic characters. See "Tablet of Antefaa II." 
S. Birch, LL.D. "Transactions of the Biblical Arch. Society," vol 
iv, part i, p. 172. 


In another instance, a king and his queen were carried 
away bodily, to be unrolled and rifled at leisure. This 
curious information is all recorded in the form of a report, 
drawn up by the commandant of "Western Thebes, who, 
with certain other officers and magistrates, officially 
inspected the tombs of the "royal ancestor," during the 
reign of Rameses IX. 

No royal tomb has been found absolutely intact in the 
valley of Bab-el-Moliik. Even that of Seti I had 
been secretly entered ages before ever Belzoni discovered 
it. He found in it statues of wood and porcelain, and the 
mummy of a bull ; but nothing cf value save the sarcoph- 
agus, which was empty. There can be no doubt that 
the priesthood were largely implicated in these contem- 
porary sacrileges. Of thirty-nine persons accused by 
name in the papyrus just quoted, seven are priests and 
eight are sacred scribes. 

To rob the dead was always a lucrative trade at Thebes; 
and we may be certain that the splendid Pharaohs who 
slept in the valley of the tombs of the kings,* went to 

* The beautiful jewels found upon the mummy of Queen Aah- 
Hotep show how richly the royal dead were adorned, and how well 
worth plundering their sepulchers must have been. These jewels 
have been so often photographed, engraved and described, that they 
are familiar to even those who have not seen them in the Boulak 
Museum. The circumstances of the discovery were suspicious, the 
mummy (in its inner mummy-case only) having been found by Mari- 
ette's diggers in the loose sand but a few feet below the surface, 
near the foot of the hillside known as Drab Abu'l Xeggah, between 
Gournah and the opening; to the Valley of the Tombs of the Kings. 
When it is remembered that the great outer sarcophagus of this 
queen was found in 1881 in the famous vault at Dayr-el-Hahari, 
where so many royal personages and relics were discovered " at one 
fell swoop;" and when to this is added the curious fact that the state 
ax of Prince Karnes, and a variety of beautiful poniards and other 
miscellaneous objects of value were found laid in the loose folds of 
this queen's outer wrappings, it seems to me that the mystery of her 
unsepulchered burial is susceptible of a very simple explanation. 
My own conviction is that Queen Aah-Hotep's mummy had simply 
been brought thither from the depths of the said vault by the Arabs 
who had for so many years possessed the secret of that famous bid- 
ding-place, and that it was temporarily buried in the sand till a con- 
venient opportunity should occur for transporting to Luxor. More- 
over, it is significant that no jewels were found upon the royal 
mummies in the Dayr-el-Bahari vault, for the reason, no doubt, that 
they had long since been taken out and sold. The jewels found with 
Aab-Hotep may, therefore, have represented the final clea ranee, and 

THEBES. 405 

their dark palaces magnificently equipped for the life to 
come.* When, indeed, one thinks of the jewels, furni- 
ture, vases, ointments, clothing, arms, and precious docu- 
ments which were as certainly buried in those tombs as the 
royal mummies for whom they were excavated, it seems 
far more wonderful that the parure of one queen should 
have escaped, rather than that all the rest of these dead 
and gone royalties should have fallen among thieves. 

Of all tombs in the valley of Bab-el-Moluk, one would 
rather, I think, have discovered that of Rameses III. As he 
was one of the richest of the Pharaohsf and an undoubted 
virtuoso in his tastes, so we may be sure that his tomb was 
furnished with all kinds of beautiful and precious things. 
What would we not give now to find some of those elaborate 

have been collected from a variety of other royal mummy-cases. 
That the state ax of Prince Kaines was among' them does not, I 
imagine, prove that Prince Kaines was the husband of Queen Aah- 
Hotep, but only that he himself was also a tenant of that historic 
vault. The actual proof that he was her husband lies in the fa*ct 
that the bracelets on her wrists, the diadem on her head, and the 
pectoral ornament on her In-east, were engraved, or inlaid, with the 
cartouches of that prince. [Note to second edition.] 

* There is in one of the papyri of the Louvre a very curious illus- 
tration, representing — first, the funeral procession of one Neb-Set, 
deceased; second, the interior of the sepulcher, with the mummy, 
the offerings, and the furniture of the tomb, elaborately drawn and 
colored. Among the objects here shown are two torches, three vases 
a coffer, a mirror, a Kohl bottle, a pair of sandals, a staff, a vase for 
ointment, a perfume bottle and an ablution jar. "These objects, 
all belonging to the toilette (for the coffer would have contained cloth- 
ing), were placed in the tomb for that day of waking which the pop- 
ular belief promised to the dead. The tomb was, therefore, furnished 
like the abodes of the living." — Translated fromT.Deveria, "Catalogue 
des Manuscrits Egyptiens du Louvre:" Paris, 1875, p. 80. The plan 
of the sepulcher of Neb-Set is also drawn upon this papyrus; and 
the soul of the deceased, represented as a human-headed bird, is 
shown hying down toward the mummy. A fine sarcophagus in the 
Boulak Museum (Xo. 84) is decorated in like manner with a repre- 
sentation of the mummy on its bier being visited, or finally rejoined, 
by the soul. I have also in my own collection a funeral papyrus 
vignetted on one side with this same subject; and bearing on the 
reverse side an architectural elevation of the monument erected over 
the sepulcher of the deceased. 

f " King Rhampsinitus (Rameses 111) was possessed, they said, of 
great riches in silver, indeed, to such an amount that none of the 
princes, his successors, surpassed or even equaled his wealth. "— 
Herodotus, Book ii, chap. 121. 


gold and silver vases, those cushioned thrones and sofas, 
those bows and quivers and shirts of mail so carefully cata- 
logued on the walls of the side-chambers in the first cor- 
ridor! I do not doubt that specimens of all these things 
were buried with the king and left ready for his use. He 
died, believing that his Ka would enjoy and make use of 
these treasures, and that his soul would come back after 
long cycles of probation, and make its home once more in 
the mummied body. He thought he should rise as from 
sleep; cast off his bandages; eat and be refreshed, and put 
on sandals and scented vestments, and take his staff in his 
hand, and go forth again into the light of everlasting day. 
Poor ghost, wandering bodiless through space! where now 
are thy funeral-baked meats, thy changes of raiment, thy 
perfumes and precious ointments? Where is that body for 
which thou wert once so solicitous, and without which 
resurrection* is impossible? One fancies thee sighing for- 
lorn through these desolate halls when all is silent and the 
moon shines down the valley. Life at Thebes is made up 
of incongruities. A morning among temples is followed by 
an afternoon of antiquity-hunting; and a day of meditation 
among tombs winds up with a dinner-party on board some 
friend's dahabeeyah, or a fantasia at the British consulate. 
L and the writer did their fair share of antiquity- 
hunting both at Luxor and elsewhere; but chiefly at Luxor. 
I may say, indeed, that our life here was one long pursuit 
of the pleasures of the chase. The game it is true was pro- 
hibited; but we enjoyed it none the less because it was 
illegal. Perhaps we enjoyed it the more. 

There were whispers about this time of a tomb that had 
been discovered on the western side — a wonderful tomb, 
rich in all kinds of treasures. No one, of course, had seen 
these things. No one knew who had found them. No one 

* Impossible from the Egyptian point of view. "That the body 
should not waste or decay was an object of anxious solicitude; and 
for this purpose various bandlets and amulets, prepared with cer- 
tain magical preparations, and sanctified with certain spells or 
players, of even offerings and small sacrifices, were distributed over 
various parts of the mummy. In some mysterious manner the 
immortality of the body was deemed as important as the passage of 
tin- soul; and at a later period the growth or natural reparation of 
the body was invoked as earnestly as the life or passage of the soul 
to the upper regions." — See " Introduction to the Funereal Ritual," 
8. Birch, LL.D., in vol. v, of Bunsen's '•Egypt:" Loud. 1867. 

THEBES. 40? 

knew where they were hidden. But there was a solemn 
secrecy about certain of the Arabs, and a conscious look 
about some of the visitors, and an air of awakened vigilance 
about the government officials, which savored of mystery. 
These rumors by and by assumed more definite proportions. 
Dark hints were dropped of a possible papyrus; the M. B.'s 
babbled of mummies; and an American dahabeeyah, lying 
innocently off Karnak, was reported to have a mummy 

on board. Now, neither L nor the writer desired to 

become the happy proprietor of an ancient Egyptian; but 
the papyrus was a thing to be thought of. In a fatal hour 
we expressed a wish to see it. From that moment every 
nnimmy-snatcher in the place regarded us as his lawful 
prey. Beguiled into one den after another, we were shown 
all the stolen goods in Thebes. Some of the things were 
very curious and interesting. In one house we were offered 
two bronze vases, each with a band of delicately engraved 
hieroglyphs running round the lip^ also a square stand of 
basket-work in two colors, precisely like that engraved in 
Sir G. Wilkinson's first volume,* after the original in the 
Berlin museum. Pieces of mummy-case and wall-sculpture 
and sepulchral tablets abounded; and on one occasion we 
were introduced into the presence of — a mummy! 

All these houses were tombs, and in this one the mummy 
was stowed away in a kind of recess at the end of a long 
rock-cut passage; probably the very place once occupied by 
the original tenant. It was a mummy of the same period 
as that which we saw disentombed under the auspices of 
the governor, and was inclosed in the same kind of carton- 
nage, patterned in many colors on a white ground. I shall 
never forget that curious scene — the dark and dusty vault; 
the Arabs with their lanterns; the mummy in its gaudy 
cerements lying on an old mat at our feet. 

Meanwhile we tried in vain to get sight of the coveted 
papyrus. A grave Arab dropped in once or twice after 
nightfall and talked it over vaguely with the dragoman; 
but never came to the point. lie offered it first, with a 
mummy, for £100. Finding, however, that we would 
neither buy his papyrus unseen, nor his mummy at any 
price, he haggled and hesitated foraday or two, evidently try- 

* "The Ancient Egyptians," Sir G.Wilkinson; vol. i, chap, ii, 
woodcut No. 92. Lond., 1871. 


ing to play us off against some rival or rivals unknown, and 
then finally disappeared. These rivals, we afterward found, 
were the M. bVs. They bought both mummy and papyrus 
at an enormous price; and then, unable to endure the per- 
fume of their ancient Egyptian, drowned the dear departed 
at the end of a week. 

Other purchasers are possibly less sensitive. We heard, 
at all events, of fifteen mummies successfully insinuated 
through the Alexandrian custom-house by a single agent 
that winter. There is, in fact, a growing passion for 
mummies among Nile travelers. Unfortunately, the 
prices rise with the demand ; and although the mine is 
practically inexhaustible, a mummy nowadays becomes not 
only a prohibited but a costly luxury. 

At Luxor the British, American and French consuls are 
Arabs. The Prussian consul is a Copt. The Austrian con- 
sul is, or was, an American. The French consul showed us 
over the old tumble-down building called "The French 
House,"* which, though but a rude structure of palm- 
timbers and sun-dried clay, built partly against and partly 
over the temple of Luxor, has its place in history. For 
there, in 1829, Champollion and Piosellini lived and worked 
together during part of their long sojourn at Thebes. Ros- 
ellini tells how they used to sit up at night, dividing the 
fruits of the day's labor; Champollion copying whatever 
might be useful for his Egyptian grammar, and Eosellini, 
the new words that furnished material for his dictionary. 
There, too, lodged the naval officers sent out by the French 
in 1831 to remove the obelisk which now stands in the 
Place de la Concorde. And there, writing those charming 
letters that delight the world, Lady Duff Gordon lingered 
through the last few winters of her life. The rooms in 
which she lived first, and the balcony in which she took 
such pleasure, were no longer accessible, owing to the 
ruinous state of one of the staircases; but we saw the rooms 
she last inhabited. Her couch, her rug, her folding chair 
were there still. The walls were furnished with a few 
cheap prints and a pair of tin sconces. All was very bare 
and comfortless. 

* The old French House is now swept away, with the rest of the 
modern Arab buildings which encumbered the ruins of the Temple 
of Luxor (see foot note, pp. 130, 131). 

THEBES. 409 

We asked if it was just like this when the sitt&h lived 
here. The Arab consul replied that she had "a table and 
some books." He looked himself in the last stage of con- 
sumption, and spoke and moved like one that had done 
with life. 

We were shocked at the dreariness of the place— till we 
went to the window. That window, which commanded the 
Kile and the western plain of Thebes, furnished the room 
and made its poverty splendid. 

The sun was near setting. We could distinguish the 
mounds and pylons of Medinet Habu and the side of the 
Eamesseum. The terraced cliffs, overtopped by the pyra- 
midal mountain of Bab-el-Moluk, burned crimson against 
a sky of stainless blue. The foot-path leading to the valley 
of the tombs of the kings showed like a hot white scar 
winding along the face of the rocks. The river gave back 
the sapphire tones of the sky. I thought I could be well 
content to spend many a winter in no matter how comfort- 
less a lodging, if only I had that wonderful view, with its 
infinite beauty of light and color and space, and its history 
and its mystery always before my windows.* 

Another historical house is that built by Sir G. Wilkin- 
son, among the tombs of Sheik Abd-el-Koorneh. Here he 
lived while amassing the materials for his " Manners and 
Customs of the Ancient Egyptians;" and here Lepsius and 
his company of artists put up while at work on the western 
bank. Science makes little impression on the native mind. 
No one now remembers Champollion, or Ilosellini, or Sir 
G. Wilkinson ; but every Arab in Luxor cherishes the 
memory of Lady Duff Gordon in his heart of hearts, and 
speaks of her with blessings. 

The French house was built over the roof of the sanctu- 
ary, at the southern end of the temple. At the northern 
end, built up between the enormous sandstone columns of 
the great colonnade, was the house of Mustapha Aga, most 
hospitable and kindly of British consuls. Mustapha Aga 
had traveled in Europe, and spoke fluent Italian, English, 
and French. His eldest son was Governor of Luxor; his 
younger— the "little Ahmed" whom Lady Duff Gordon 

* Mehemet Ali gave this bouse to tlie French, and to the French it 
belonged till pulled down three years ago by Professor Maspero. 
[Note to second edition.] 


delighted to educate — having spent two years in England 

as the guest of Lord D , had become an accomplished 


In the round of gayety that goes on at Luxor the British 
consulate played the leading part. Mustapha Aga enter- 
tained all the English dahabeeyahs, and all the English 
dahabeeyahs entertained Mustapha Aga. We were invited 
to several fantasias at the consulate, and dined with 
Mustapha Aga at his suburban house the evening before 
we left Luxor. 

The appointed hour was 8.30 p. m. We arrived amid 
much barking of dogs, and were received by our host in a 
large empty hall surrounded by a divan. Here we remained 
till dinner was announced. We were next ushered through 
an ante-room where two turbaned and barefooted servants 
were in waiting; the one with a brass basin and ewer, the 
other with an armful of Turkish towels. We then, each 
in turn, held our hands over the basin; had water poured 
on them ; and received a towel apiece. These towels we 
Avere told to keep ; and they served for dinner-napkins. 
The ante-room opened into a brilliantly lighted dining- 
room of moderate size, having in the center a round brass 
table with an upright fluted rim, like a big tray. For 
each person were placed a chair, a huge block of bread, a 
wooden spoon, two tumblers, and a bouquet. Plates, 
knives, forks, there were none. 

The party consisted of the happy couple, the director of 

the Luxor telegraph office, L , the writer, Ahmed, and 

our host. 

" To-night we are all Arabs," said Mustapha Aga, as he 
showed us where to sit. "We drink Nile water and we 
eat with our fingers." 

So we drank Nile water ; and for the first time in our 
lives we ate with our fingers. In fact, we found them 
exceedingly useful. 

The dinner was excellent. Without disrespect to our 
own accomplished chef, or to the accomplished chefs of 
our various friends upon the river, I am bound to say that 
it was the very best dinner I ever eat out of Europe. 
Everything was hot, quickly served, admirably dressed, 
and the best of its kind. Here is the menu : 

THEBES. 411 

MENU. MARCH 31, 1874. 

White soup : — (Turkey). 


Fried Samak.* 


Stewed pigeons. Spinach and rice. 




KebobsJ of mutton. Kebobs of lambs' kidneys. 
Tomatoes with rice. Kuftah.§ 


Turkey, with cucumber sauce. 


Pilaff || of rice. 


Mish-mish.l" Eus Blebban.ff 

Kunafah.** Totleh.tJ 

* Samak: a large flat fish, rather like a brill, 
f Dull: roast shoulder of lamb. 
\ Kebobs: small lumps of meat grilled on skewers. 
§ Kuftah: broiled mutton. 

|| Pilaff: boiled rice, mixed with a little butter, and seasoned with 
salt and pepper. 
1[ Mish-mish: apricots (preserved). 

** Kunafah: a rich pudding made of rice, almonds, cream, cinna- 
mon, etc. 

ft Rus Blebban: rice cream. 

XX Totleh: sweet jelly, incrusted with blanched almonds. 


These dishes were placed one at a time in the middle of 
the table and rapidly changed. Each dipped his own 
spoon into the soup, dived into the stew and pulled off pieces 
of fish or lamb with his fingers. Having no plates, we 
made plates of our bread. Meanwhile, Mustapha Aga, 
like an attentive host, tore off an especially choice morsel 
now and then and handed it to one or other of his guests. 

To eat gracefully with one's fingers is a fine art; to carve 
with them skillfully is a science. None of us, I think, will 
soon forget the wonderful way in which our host attacked 
and vanquished the turkey — a solid colossus weighing 
twenty pounds, and roasted to perfection. Half rising, he 
turned back his cuff, poised his wrist, and driving his fore- 
finger and thumb deep into the breast, brought out a long, 
stringy smoking fragment, which he deposited on the plate 
of the writer. Thus begun, the turkey went round the 
table amid peals of laughter and was punished by each in 
turn. The pilaff which followed is always the last dish 
served at an Egyptian or Turkish dinner. After this our 
spoons were changed and the sweets were put upon the 
table. The drinks throughout were plain water, rice- 
water and lemonade. >Some native musicians played in 
the ante-room during dinner; and when we rose from the 
table we washed our hands as before. 

We now returned to the large hall, and, not being accom- 
plished in the art and mystery of sitting crossed-legged, 
curled ourselves up on the divans as best we could. The 
writer was conducted by Mustapha Aga to the corner seat 
at the upper end of the room, where he said the Princess 
of Wales had sat when their royal highnesses dined with 
him the year before. We were then served with pipes and 
coffee. The gentlemen smoked chibouques and cigarettes, 
while for us there were gorgeous rose-water narghilehs with 

long flexible tubes and amber mouthpieces. L had 

the princess' pipe and smoked it very cleverly all the 

By and by came the governor, the Kadi of Luxor, the 
Prussian consul and his son and some three or four grave- 
looking merchants in rich silk robes and ample turbans. 
Meanwhile the band — two fiddles, a tambourine and a 
darabukkeh — played at intervals at the lower end of the 
hall ; pipes, coffee and lemonade went continually round ; 
and the entertainment wound up, as native entertainments 

THEBES. 413 

always do wind up at Luxor, with a performance of 

We had already seen these dancers at two previous fan- 
tasias and we admired them no more the third time than 
the first. They wore baggy Turkish trousers, loose gowns 
of gaudy pattern and a profusion of jewelry. The premiere 
danseuse was a fine woman and rather handsome ; but in 
the " belle "of the company, a thick-lipped Nubian, we 
could discover no charm whatever. The performances of 
the Ghawazi — which are very ungraceful and almost wholly 
pontomimic — have been too often described to need de- 
scription here. Only once, indeed, did we see them per- 
form an actual dance; and then they swam lightly to and 
fro, clattering their castanets, crossing and re-crossing and 
bounding every now and then down the whole length 
of the room. This dance, we were told, was of unknown 
antiquity. They sang occasionally; but their voices were 
harsh and their melodies inharmonious. 

There was present, however, one native performer whom 
we had already heard many times and of whose skill we 
never tired. This was the leader of the little band — an 
old man who played the kemengeh,* orcocoanut fiddle. A 
more unpromising instrument than the kemengeh it. would 
be difficult to conceive; yet our old Arab contrived to 
make it discourse most eloquent music. His solos con- 
sisted of plaintive airs and extemporized variations, embroi- 
dered with difficult and sometimes extravagant cadenzas. 
He always began sedately, but warmed to his work as he 
went on; seeming at last to forget everything but his own 
delight in his own music. At such times one could see 
that he was weaving some romance in his thoughts and 
translating it into sounds. As the strings throbbed under 
his fingers, the whole man became inspired; and more than 
once when, in shower after shower of keen, despairing notes, 
he had described the wildest anguish of passion, I have 
observed his color change and his hand tremble. 

Although we heard him repeatedly, and engaged him 
more than once when we had friends to dinner, I am sorry 

* The kemengeh is a kind of small two-stringed fiddle, the body of 
which is made of half a cocoanut shell. It has a very long neck, 
and a long foot that rests upon the ground, like the foot of a violon- 
cello; and it is played with a bow about a yard in length. The 
strings are of twisted horsehair. 


to say that I forget the name of this really great artist. 
He is, however, celebrated throughout the Thebaic!, and is 
constantly summoned to Erment, Esneh, Keneh, Girgeh, 
and other large towns, to perform at private entertain- 

While at Luxor, we went one Sunday morning to the 
Coptic church — a large building at the northern extremity 
of the village. Church, schools, and bishop's house, are 
here grouped under one roof and inclosed in a court-yard; 
for Luxor is the center of one of the twelve sees into 
which Coptic Egypt is divided. 

The church, which has been rebuilt of late years, is con- 
structed of sun-dried brick, having a small apse toward the 
east, and at the lower or western end a screened atrium for 
the women. The center aisle is perhaps thirty feet in width; 
the side-aisles, if aisles they can be called, being thickly 
planted with stone pillars supporting round arches. These 
pillars came from Karnak, and were the gift of the khe- 
dive. They have lotus-bud capitals, and measure about 
fifteen feet high in the shaft. At the upper end of the 
nave, some eighteen or twenty feet in advance of the apse, 
there stands a very beautiful screen inlaid in the old Coptic 
style with cedar,ebony, rosewood, ivory and mother-of-pearl 
This screen is the pride of the church. Through the opening 
in the center one looks straight into the little wagon-roofed 
apse, which contains a small table and a suspended lamp, 
and is as dark as the sanctuary of an Egyptian temple. 
The reading-desk, like a rickety office stool, faces the con- 
gregation; and just inside the screen stands the bishop's 
chair. Upon this plan, which closely resembles the plan 
of the first cathedral of St. Peter at Rome, most Coptic 
churches are built. They vary chiefly in the number of 
apses, some having as many as five. The atrium generally 
contains a large tank, called the Epiphany tank, into 
which, in memory of the baptism of our Lord, the men 
plunge at their festivals of El (ihitas. 

Young Todroos, the son of the Prussian consul, con- 
ducted us to the church. We went in at about eleven 
o'clock and witnessed the end of the service, which had 
then been going on since daybreak. The atrium was 
crowded with -women and children, and the side-aisles with 
men of the poorer sort. A few groups of better dressed 
Copts were gathered near the screen listening to a black- 

THEBES. 415 

robed deacon, who stood reading at the reading desk with 
a lighted taper in his left hand. A priest in a white vest- 
ment embroidered on the breast and hood with a red Mal- 
tese cross, was squatting on his heels at the entrance to 
the adytum. The bishop, all in black, with a black tur- 
ban, sat with his back to the congregation. 

Every face was turned upon us when we came in. The 
reader paused. The white-robed priest got up. Even the 
bishop looked round. Presently a couple of acolytes, each 
carrying two cane-bottomed chairs, came bustling down 
the nave : and, unceremoniously driving away all who 
were standing near, placed us in a row across the middle 
of the church. This interruption over, the reading was 

We now observed with some surprise that every word of 
the lessons as they were read in Coptic was translated, 
viva voce, into Arabic by a youth in a surplice, who stood 
against the screen facing the congregation. lie had no 
book, but went on fluently enough, following close upon 
the voice of the reader. This, we were told, was done 
only during the reading of the lessons, the Gospel, and the 
Lord's prayer. The rest of the service is performed with- 
out translation; and, the Coptic being a dead language, is 
consequently unintelligible to the people. 

When the reading of the Gospel was over, the deacon re- 
tired. The priest then came forward and made a sign to 
the school-children, who ran up noisily from all parts of 
the church, and joined with the choristers in a wild kind 
of chant. It seemed to us that this chant concluded the 
first part of the service. 

The second part closely resembled the celebration of 
mass. The priest came to the door of the screen; looked 
at the congregation; folded his hands palm to palm; went 
up to the threshold of the apse, and began reciting what 
sounded like a litany. He then uncovered the sacred ves- 
sels, which till now had been concealed under two blue cot- 
ton handkerchiefs, and, turning, shook the handkerchief to- 
ward the people. He then consecrated the wine and wafer; 
elevated the host; and himself partook of the Eucharist in 
both elements. A little bell was rung during the conse- 
cration and again at the elevation. The people, mean- 
while, stood very reverently, with their heads bent; but no 
one knelt during any part of the service. After this, the 


officiating priest washed his hands in a brass basin ; and 
the deacon — who was also the schoolmaster — come round 
the church holding up his scarf, which was heaped full of 
little cakes of unleavened bread. These he distributed to 
all present. An acolyte followed with a plate, and col- 
lected the offerings of the congregation. 

We now thought the service was over; but there remained 
four wee, crumpled, brown mites of babies to be christened. 
These small Copts were carried up the church by four 
acolytes, followed by four anxious fathers. The priest 
then muttered a short prayer ; crossed the babies with 
water from the basin in which he had washed his hands ; 
drank the water